Tuesday, 27 October 2009


I’ve kept quiet about my cousin Sally. Hardly surprising as she was and continues to be the high achiever in the family. Where I failed miserably at school, she excelled; where I went travelling or, as our uncle preferred to refer to it as bumming around the world; she went to a fantastic university. Suffice it to say, whereas I now make cappuccinos and don an apron of domesticity and, am a loyal and devoted and supportive wife -do not guffaw, she is a single, independent, high flying go-getter living in Geneva.
Googling EasyJet the other day as I am wont to do when in need of a little escapism, I went down the list of where one could fly to from Bristol. I was thrilled to discover a fare to Geneva for just over 63 quid. Bargain. As my finger hovered longingly over the button ‘Continue’, I wondered how I could break the news to Hubby that I’d be abandoning ship for the weekend, leaving him in charge. I looked at the dates of the flights and before continuing down the ‘continue’ line, texted my cousin to make sure she could find a tiny window of opportunity in her jet-setting lifestyle to not only accommodate me but also drag me around the sights.
Whereas I usually have to wait days for a reply from her, for once she texted back almost immediately but not quite quickly enough that I hadn’t navigated away from the EasyJet web page on my computer and by the time her reply came, I was making dinner and Hubby had returned from work and had seen my computer screen asking for ‘credit card details’.
“Ah-lice! What are you up to?” And there was me wondering how to break the news to him.
As I seasoned my riced potatoes and turned the pork fillet, I tried to explain that I fancied a few days away.
“It’s really cheap flight darling” I continued, “And of course I won’t have to pay for any accommodation”. Then I played my trump card, “and it is the weekend before my birthday after all and you won’t be here on the day will you?”
Got ya. Hubby knew he had no chance of retaliation because once again on October 21st, instead of wining and dining his beloved wife, he would instead be wining and dining the memory of Admiral Nelson.
“But Alice love, you know how it is, it’s Traf night and I’m the mess pres. I have to be there”.
So, it goes without any further elucidation or justification that last Friday found me on an aeroplane bound for Switzerland. Everyone told me how expensive the city of Geneva was but I must have been living in cloud cuckoo-clock land if I’d thought for one minute that one hundred pounds would suffice for the weekend.
I was initially lulled into thinking that friends had no idea what they were talking about because on leaving the baggage reclaim area at the Geneva airport you can pick up a train ticket which entitles you to travel for 90 minutes for nothing. I was delighted and rode into the city with a big grin on my face and my Swiss Francs intact in my purse.
Sally met me at the platform and we took a tram, still free, to her apartment. It was only on entering her hallway that I began to understand what my friends meant by ‘expensive’. Her accommodation comprised of a basic kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom. Her rent for this luxury – over a thousand pounds a month.
My mouth for one reason or another was a gawping hole of astonishment from that moment on. On Saturday, after a day’s sightseeing and indulging in all things Swiss, namely melted cheese and chocolate, we returned home to her flat, curled our eyelashes, put on our glad-rags and with a borrowed Louis Vuitton dangling from my wrist we went out to dinner.
The restaurant was on the second floor of a swank hotel, with a view over Lake Geneva and the Jet D’eau. The food was of the magazine perfection variety and the pudding arrived swathed in yards of spun sugar. I never saw the bill for which I’ll be eternally grateful as dinner was a birthday treat from my cousin. We did however go into the adjacent bar later, where I bought her a mojito and myself a glass of wine. Thirty pounds thank you very much. Reeling, I went to sit down and Sally and I people watched through a thick fug of smoke.
“The customers are really young here” she said. No kidding.
The group sitting next to my thigh looked on closer inspection, less young people and more like children. The boy had an air of prosperity about him with his floppy Hugh Grant hair, crisp white shirt, designer jeans and Rolex watch. The four girls all had golden skin, very little clothing, dead straight, shiny, tresses and all, without exception had with them on the table, a packet of Marlboro Lights and a swish, top of the range mobile phone. None of them spoke, bored with their environment and a lifestyle of excess where nothing, I doubt, will ever have a wow factor. I was horrified when the waitress came over and from an ice bucket, refilled their champagne flutes from a magnum of Moet. I had to ask.
“How old are you?”
“Fourteen”. How much happier would they have been on a sofa with their parents, arguing who should be kicked off X-Factor or even in some bus stop snogging? Surely to God anything was preferable to this unchaperoned hedonism.
We left soon after, depressed. A trip up an Alp the following morning brought the colour back to my cheeks. Fresh air and the odd refrain of ‘The Hills are Alive’ thank God, cost nothing.


Alice Band said...

Heloooo! Aynone out there?

DL said...

Hi AB. Always here. Just acting the strong, silent type. And thinking, wouldn't it be nice to hop on a plane, somewhere, anywhere...

Alice Band said...

Dear DL, I always thought you were of the strong, silent calibre. Lucky SL.