The summer of our discontent

by Malcolm Curtis|The Essential Edge, Geneva|August 12, 2012

This is the season when nothing gets done.

Summer is glorious but a winter of discontent hangs over our house, chiefly because we have chosen to remain here in the French Pays de Gex region when the natives suggest in a variety of ways that you should scram.

Most of the local small shop owners have closed for two, three,  or four weeks.

Haplessly hoping to cash in on the summer sales, I wandered last week to a few stores selling furnishings in Ferny-Voltaire, my home town, just across the border from Geneva, Switzerland.

Gazing in the display windows at cushions and lamps that might have adorned our living room, I discovered the tell-tale, hand-scrawled signs.

Nothing here, certainly not the prospect of business from clients foolish enough to hang around during vacation time, gets in the way of annual summer holidays.

Engaging a plumber or electrician at other times of the year is already a trying affair that can sometimes take several months to schedule.

But now that the beaches beckon, the task suddenly becomes Mission Impossible.

Our efforts to have a technician visit the house to mend a leaking water-softener were solemnly rebuffed.

The only man available to do the job was booked up for the the week and on Friday he joined the swollen cast of people in the region who are unavailable to provide services of any kind.

We’ll have to wait until the “rentrée”, or the return to school in September, before we can hopefully flag him down to fix our waterworks.

(If you are wondering about the water softener, the tap water here is very hard and needs to be treated to lessen the impact of its high-mineral content on pipes and appliances. Unlike most of the drinking water in Geneva, which comes from the lake, ours comes from a well.)

The season when nothing gets done also takes its toll on those of us who are hosting visitors.

We like to bicycle through the nearby countryside of Geneva and the canton of Vaud, exploring the many picturesque villages.

One of the chief pleasures is stopping in at charming bistros to slake parched thirsts and to savor the local gastronomy.

We are used to being denied this indulgence on Sundays, of course, a day that Geneva’s protestant reformer Jean Calvin advised should be given over to more sober contemplations.

But for the next few weeks in most of these villages, every day will be like the Sabbath, much to the chagrin of our pedaling visitors, with their parched throats.

Virtually all of the local village restaurants — barring those directly on Lake Geneva — are closed as the owners join the exodus for other places, presumably near beaches, where it is still possible to toast the glories of summer.

We noticed “fermé¨ signs posted at eateries in Collex, Genthod, Coppet and Mies, establishments that evidently can manage just fine without summer tourists.

Granted, there are a few benefits from this otherwise aggravating pause in activity.

A noisy construction site behind our apartment building became a haven of peace after the hardhat workers downed their tools for a holiday break last week.

And the rush-hour tailbacks have dwindled to the point where driving into Geneva from Ferney is a fast, hassle-free experience.

But frustrations remain.

Our apartment is in a new structure, where a list of unaccomplished chores to finish the building lengthens, although the construction job was officially completed 19 months ago.

The hedge is badly in need of clipping, dead trees have yet to be replaced, malfunctioning doors await repairs, the detector used to automatically turn off lights in the underground parking area is disabled, areas have yet to be painted and cleaned, the keyless entry system to our building is broken, and so on.

Tantalizingly, the real estate management company dealing with the builder appeared to be on the verge of beginning to tackle these and other issues.

But then the season when nothing gets done rudely intervened.

It is a bit like Ramadan, the Muslim religious period of fasting and abstinence, which coincidentally this year is occurring at the same period.

Geneva hotel and restaurant owners have reported a drop in visits from Arabs from the Persian Gulf states who typically like to visit the City of Calvin in August.

Because Muslims apparently prefer to observe Ramadan in their home countries, many who normally make the annual pilgrimage to the city have cancelled their trips for 2012.

So the annual Fêtes de Genève, the summer festival with fun-fair rides by the lake that wrapped up on Sunday, has been much quieter than usual.

Somehow, this seems entirely fitting for the NGD season.

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About Malcolm Curtis

Freelance English-language communications professional (writing, editing, translations) based near Geneva, Switzerland. Let me know if I can help you.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Food and Drink, Pays de Gex, Restaurants, Tourism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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