Like all apartment buildings in Geneva - and there are lots - ours has a Concierge.
Now that sounds a lot posher than it really is because he's not a 'I'll do anything for you' smarmy chap at the luxury hotel counter or a French-speaker who offers to walk your poodles. Nope, he (normally a 'he' as one of the unofficial job requisites is unruly facial hair) just lives in the building and keeps the gardens, hallways, lifts and garages clean.
It's very hard work. Our guy, let's call him Fratman in a slight nod to his real name and because I've been using it in real life and it's stuck, is a busy little bee.
If he's not up before 6am putting out the green bins for collection on Monday, he's doing something similar for the rubbish on Tuesday and Friday or the 'Papier Receptacles' on Wednesdays. He brings them in no later than fifteen minutes after the garbage truck has been and cleans up any spills or blow outs. Considering he has six eleven-storey buildings with several hundred residents who share his street address, he has a huge amount of rubbish, cigarette butts, garden spaces and parking spots to keep tidy. He polishes windows, shared door knobs and letter boxes and - if bored and seeking a do-able dare - you could eat dinner off the parking bays.
He and I have a complicated relationship.
He can't help looking like an Orc with reading glasses (as I can't help looking like a baked potato) but he doesn't speak a word of English and I only speak about four in French. Like a Middle Earth baddie he seems to believe that if he YELLS AT ME the language will magically ooze its way into my blonde brain and we'll be able to converse eloquently ala Francais. Invariably he ends up waiting expectantly for my answer and is visibly disappointed when he only ever gets my inane grin and a 'thumbs up' sign.
Sapphire and I were shooed off the lawn when eating our lunch on a sunny summers' day because it is only for looking at not using; and the day I unthinkingly strolled across the just-mopped marble foyer saw his one eye steam up with rage before gesturing at me to "Sortez! Utilisez l'autre porte!" Merde and tete might have been muttered a few times as well.....
Then again, he apparently really loves me because I commented to Anne - a friend who lives on the first floor and is fluent in French - that Sapphire and I have noticed how hard he works. "Fratman never stops; he's like the Duracell bunny but with a big set of keys instead of drum sticks." She told him and he now beams at me with his one good eye.
Anne is now unwittingly involved in our relationship. The Fratman knows that we are friends. She is, after all, a nurse from New Zealand and I, the clueless cretin from Australia. Geographic proximity is enough.
"He's going to write a letter to the Regie," Anne exclaimed one morning, slightly out of breath from indignation and eight flights of stairs. "He knows that it's you who traipses mud into the foyer."
We'd had this sort-of-discussion via Anne before. Oh no, I reassured her. I mean him. Tell The Fratman that I wipe my feet very carefully and that mud gets stuck in the tread of everybody's shoes now that it's raining and snowing.
This appeased him for a while until he was out chatting to the gardeners (they literally hoover up the autumn leaves every week. Milly runs out to her dog forest afterwards and is absolutely puzzled at where her crunchy ground cover has gone) and he saw them. My rubber boots.
The Orc inside him knew - these weren't your everyday shoes; they were made for mud. And that Aussie Idiot was prancing around in them, dropping off clods at every step. He putt-putted past me in his mini-tractor with six steel wheelie bins trailing on chains behind him towards the bike cave. There was anger in the clouds of exhaust farting out behind him.
I wasn't surprised that he'd put the blame onto my shoulders and mine alone. "He's been watching you," Anne gasped. "He told me to tell you to leave your boots outside or...." she paused, in a bind between upsetting me and the shock of the information she was about to impart, "......you could be outside."
Since that indirect ultimatum, I now clip on Milly's lead, put on my Dog Walking Parka and head downstairs. In my other hand is a huge plastic bag containing my rubber boots and a large towel. When the foyer doors shut behind us, I take off my slippers and step into the boots, making sure they're resting on top of the grate should any chunks of dried mud fall off, and then reach over to fold up the bag, place the towel on top and my slippers on top of that.
After our walk, I again stand on the grate and deftly lift one foot at a time out of the boots and into the slippers and then put the boots in the bag. The towel is then used to wipe off any mud and water from Milly's legs, stomach and feet so that, several long minutes later, we can enter the foyer without leaving any significant signs on the floor that we were ever there.
The Fratman saw me a couple of days after this technique was initiated. "Tres Bien!" "Merci Beaucoup" and "Bravo" were gleefully yelled on his side and my go-to 'Thumbs Up' sign was acted out on mine: we'd found a solution that suited us all - Orcs, Concierges, Renters, Dumb Aussies, Dogs and Mud Magnets.
So can you imagine how annoyed I was when Milly and I returned from a lovely long walk around Parc de Trembly this morning and there was the plastic boot bag, her tummy towel but NOT my slippers?
WHO would want to flog a manky pair of second-hand slippers? They're worn down at the heel, have brownish stains where there was once fluffy blue lining and the outer velvet is festooned with orange dog fur.
..... I'm not risking any other pairs of shoes, so now it's a rapid tip-toe across a very slippery marble floor and a kind of half somersault from the door mat straight into my rubber boots that are still sitting in the bag with the straps wide apart for my landing. It reminds me of the awful first stages of puberty when our mothers would say, "Don't be impatient, you'll grow like the others soon."
Substitute 'grow' for 'become a glamorous international resident' and you'll see my predicament: will he now complain that I'm making the place look untidy with my amateur gymnastics?