Mine de rien

I stumbled across an old to-do list the other day and was struck by how much had been accomplished. What seemed almost insurmountable earlier this year has now been largely achieved. None of it perfect, much still to do. As ever.

Some of the big items on the list from early 2020 are not yet boxes ticked. But ‘Sell house’ should be complete this week (fingers, toes and other appendages crossed please!). As to another item, ‘Find new place to live in Switzerland’, this is largely achieved. We didn’t end up buying, which feels like the right move given the current climate, but are happily settling in to our rented home. Getting it just right is a work in progress but if I learned one thing from our last place it is this: don’t rush things. You have to live in a space for a while to know how to make it work. And in the meantime, it is extremely liveable by any standard.

‘Mine de rien’ is one of those French expressions that you don’t learn but comes up in conversation. ‘Without even trying’ or ‘without seeming to have made any big effort’ is my best attempt at translating it. I can’t say this really applies to me as I’ve made no secret of the huge efforts made since we decided to move. At times it felt like we would never get there. Hurdles, frustrations, moments of doubt. Not to mention a global pandemic. Yet somehow things have more or less fallen into place, at least for now.

A ‘mine’ (pronounced: mean) is a face or a look, and it is often used to describe a person’s state of health. To have ‘une bonne mine’ means you’re looking good. ‘Mauvaise mine’ is just the opposite.

I feel like I have a pretty good ‘mine’ these days, despite the stresses of moving and adapting to a new life. The cooler air where we live now suits me, and the water’s pretty good too. It’s softer and, if you believe the local authorities, pretty well perfect in terms of water quality.

We got our new resident’s permits from the Canton of Schwyz the other day. It took a few weeks but the process was entirely Swiss: efficient and painless. We had to pay for the privilege of course, in my case CHF 70, which is sort of a recurring theme. Everything has a cost and it’s very much a user-pay mentality in Switzerland. But you do get what you pay for. I’m eternally grateful to the powers that be for not making me look like an escaped convict in my ID photo.

Perhaps my ‘mine’ is smiling a bit more these days too, which always adds to a healthy appearance. After all, there is much to smile about. We’re healthy (touch wood, not face!) for one thing, although who knows how long we will manage to escape the dreaded virus? We’re careful but we haven’t stopped enjoying life. And when I go to bed at night I feel safer than I ever did in France. Which is not to say that an axe murderer won’t come calling but somehow it feels like we live now without what the French call ‘ce sentiment d’insecurité’. That unsettling sense of insecurity is ever-present across the border, and I miss it not all.

What have you done, mine de rien, of late?


  1. margaret21 · October 29, 2020

    You’ve done so well. Our next hurdle will be crossing two virus-laden countries at New Year – if possible: France, Spain to visit my daughter, with Brexit kicking in and all that means for bureaucracy, travel insurance etc. Switzerland seems to be doing well in all this.

    • MELewis · October 29, 2020

      You have my full sympathy! Not sure we’ll get to see our daughter at Christmas unless things improve drastically on both sides of the border. 😢 Not so sure about Switzerland’s Covid performance — cases are surging here too.

  2. phildange · October 29, 2020

    Cheat, so you published a photo from the 90s didn’t you ?😉
    I’d add a few other “mines” : a coal mine is “une mine de charbon” and a pencil lead is “une mine de crayon” .
    Good luck in your new country . I always wonder :”Is it worth it to survive the Covid to eventually die of boredom ?”

    • MELewis · October 29, 2020

      Ha ha…no fooling you, Phil. How did you guess? But you are off by a few years: it’s actually a photo from 2017. 😅 As for dying of boredom, the only way this might happen is if I get so used to the views I don’t see the cliff and stumble off the edge of a mountain!

  3. Joanne Sisco · October 29, 2020

    I’m glad to hear that you are settling well into your new life in Switzerland. I suspect that underpinning a bit of ‘mine de rein’ is a whole lot of thinking and planning that made the execution appear seamless 🙂

    Here’s hoping to a lot more of that ‘effortless’ execution!!

    • MELewis · October 29, 2020

      It sure didn’t feel effortless to me! But thank you — seamless execution is what I aim for. Where I fall down is the grace under fire. Definitely not my strong point! 🙃

      • Joanne Sisco · October 29, 2020

        I can relate to that one too. I admit to devolving into a Drama Queen when the going gets tough 🙄

      • MELewis · October 29, 2020

        Soul sister! 😜

  4. Elyse · October 29, 2020

    Beautiful photo! I’m so happy for you. Cheers! 🥂. Elyse 🥰

    • MELewis · October 29, 2020

      Merci chère Elyse! Hope we can raise a glass and do an ‘old friends’ photo one day again soon!

  5. Mary Katherine · October 29, 2020

    So glad things are going well for you – you’ve certainly been through the wringer with that house sale….
    I, too, am incredibly lucky, with me and all my family remaining healthy and employed. But I heard today that Dr. Fauci (the expert we trust most in the US) expects “this” to last through 2021 and taper off in early 2022. What the world might look like by then fills me with such despair, I can’t even think about it – so I won’t. My favorite thing is travel, so with nothing to look forward to there, I’m concentrating on good food, good books and good movies.

    • MELewis · October 29, 2020

      It is depressing not to have travel to look forward to. But then you think of how lucky you are to be alive and well, even in our isolation. Thank goodness for small rewards!

  6. Garfield Hug · October 29, 2020

    Take care and lots of luck in your house sale.

  7. Ally Bean · October 29, 2020

    I’m glad your move is complete and that you’ve found a safe place. Funny how the vibes of some places are just darned unnerving while other places suit your soul, almost effortlessly.

    • MELewis · October 29, 2020

      Yes, I think there is some of that…Switzerland seems to fit me well. On the other hand, France is really a bit of a mess at the moment. Another attack in Nice…my heart breaks.

  8. midihideaways · October 29, 2020

    I’m so keeping my fingers crossed that your house sale will go through without a hitch!! Keep writing and keep well!

    • MELewis · October 30, 2020

      Cheers! It’s looking good. And a virtual signature to boot! 🙌

  9. davidprosser · October 30, 2020

    Looking Good Mel. I hope that everything goes ahead at a speed you can cope with and without any pressures.
    Huge Hugs

    • MELewis · October 30, 2020

      Merci David. The sale is final with an appropriately socially-distanced virtual signature back in France today. Now it’s time to uncork that champagne. Bubbly bises! xo

  10. Susanne · October 30, 2020

    Like your move, very little these days feels effortless or seemingly effortless. My brain requires constant prodding to do the simplest things like putting on socks or brushing my teeth. Oh hang on. Here’s something: I can stand in front of the fridge and shovel in cheese without effort. Or smear butter on my husband’s homemade sourdough bread.

    • MELewis · November 5, 2020

      I know exactly how you feel. Like you, I’ve been frozen in indecision or seeming procrastination over the tiniest chores while over-indulging on guilty-pleasure treats (with lately more guilt than pleasure…). I think it’s a coping strategy for dealing with change, chaos and the sense of our world crumbling around our feet. Good grief. Pass the peanut butter! And if it’s after 6pm, make that a large beer and a bag of corn chips. 😭

  11. acflory · October 31, 2020

    We haven’t been doing much, but our state has finally come out of hard lockdown! We went from 700 new cases per day to two days of double zeros – no new cases and no deaths. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep things that way so if/when new outbreaks occur we can squish them…tout de suite. 🙂

    Glad you’re settling in so well. How’re the language classes coming along?

    • MELewis · November 5, 2020

      So pleased Meeks that you guys have been able to whip the bugger into submission! Wish we had your secret — around here it’s all spikes and peaks and overrun hospitals. Perhaps the onset of winter is to blame? Distancing fatigue? Not sure but I will watch Australia with interest to see how you manage. In the meantime, bravo! 🤗 As for German, well…it’s not easy. The prof now wears a mask (thankfully, as we all do) but it doesn’t help with comprehension. But hey, small steps. My vocabulary is definitely 1000% better than it was a month ago!

      • acflory · November 5, 2020

        We got the monster beat because our Premier was gutsy enough to force us into a really hard lockdown. 8 pm curfew, 5 km radius for leaving the house, very strict reasons for leaving the house, police checks, fines, but…most of all, he stood up in front of the press every single morning for over 180 days to explain, cajole, and generally make us understand that we weren’t alone and that he cared. He could just about walk on water for some of us. 🙂 Meanwhile, the idiot who thinks he’s our Prime Minister just keeps bleating about the ‘economy’. Bah.
        Anyway, I’m glad your classes are continuing but…wouldn’t it be easier online where you could see the shape of the mouth?
        Best of luck with that vocab. 🙂

      • MELewis · November 5, 2020

        Communication is so important, and it’s a rare leader who is committed to doing it well. Lucky you! I’d love an online option but they aren’t set up for it. Signed up for 7 weeks in classroom locally so guess I’ll keep going. Not thrilled but around here, getting on with it while wearing masks is sort of the new normal. Already an improvement over when we first arrived and nary a mask in sight! Time will tell…🤞😕

      • acflory · November 5, 2020

        Given the nasty news coming out of Europe and the UK, I’m glad the locals are taking mask wearing seriously. I think a lot of people still see masks as just something that protects /them/. In reality though, wearing masks protects others far more. Who would think a mask would become a sign of altruism?

  12. Dale · November 4, 2020

    Lovely photo of you! Sending you good vibes that your house sells in France ASAP! And it must be rather disconcerting to feel unsafe where you are living. Smart of you to rent until you’re sure. Mine de rien, c’est quand-même important de se sentir en sécurité!

    • MELewis · November 4, 2020

      100% d’accord! Merci Dale. 😁The sale is now final, yippee! So glad it’s done, who would have imagined what a wild ride we’d have this year? And it’s not over. Just watching the crazy US election show…quelle vie!

      • Dale · November 4, 2020

        Woo hoo!!
        Don’t even… It’s nuts what’s going on down there

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