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Being Brave

11 Oct

I’m now three quarters of the way through the online writing course that I started a couple of month ago.

The course has been very interesting and I feel like I have learnt practical things that have helped me to improve my writing. When I have finished the course I will be make the decide if I should go back to re-writing the book that I drafted earlier this year or put together a book of short stories from the material that I have written during the course.

The short story book option seems to me to be the easier option. I am still daunted by revisiting the book and, after reading it through again recently, I know that it is going to take a lot of work and revisions to get the book into good shape.

In the meantime, I thought I would be brave and share with you a short piece that I wrote on the course. We were given a 750 word limit for this exercise which isn’t a lot of words at all. I would like to add to this to make a longer piece. I haven’t shared anything that I am proud to have written since my teacher in junior school read out a short story that I wrote for homework. So this is a big thing for me.

I would be happy to hear feedback (positive or negative). Positive comments will inspire me to finally get stuck into that book and negative ones might help me to improve.

Broken Promises

You’ve done it again. You promised yourself a thousand times that today would be different. Today was the day that you would spring out of bed half an hour earlier than normal. A tightly bound coil ready to jump into life with raw enthusiasm. The snooze button is an invention for the lazy, so naturally, you stayed in bed longer.

Like your own motivational coach, you tell yourself that this is not the end of the world. The amount of calories you burn isn’t affected by how early you burn them. You will go running. Just a little later than planned.

That motivational speech was over two hours ago. In that time you’ve been lying on the sofa, scrolling through countless social media feeds, feigning an interest in photos of strangers’ breakfasts and the political scandals of a country that you would be hard-pressed to pinpoint on a map. You don’t admit it but you are wasting time, putting off the inevitable. The inevitable shortness of breath, muscle fatigue and embarrassment; more than anything you dread bumping into a neighbour, who is walking their dog, your face glowing red like the hot embers of a bonfire.

Your guilt begins to snatch at your brain, like a violin string being aggressively plucked. You reach out to put your phone on the coffee table. You exhale loudly. Now. Now is the right time.

You stuff your body uncomfortably into your sports clothing. The clothing promises that its technologically-advanced material will evaporate sweat from the skin more quickly. You felt like a professional athlete when you bought it. The purchase was meant to be a watershed moment. A moment that marked the beginning of a slimmer, healthier you.

Six months on and you have worn it only a handful of times. You now weight more. Your lack of a flat stomach is an accumulation of one poor excuse laid gently on top of another. One more slice of chocolate cake. One last beer before you leave the party. One skipped workout that soon snowballs into a fortnight of skipped workouts.

The watch fits perfectly. The watch measures your heart rate, speed, steps, calories and cadence. Your exhausted limbs and burning lungs will tell you how well or badly you have run but the watch will confirm it with downloadable data. Data that you will later pour-over, like a statistician analysing a world championship-winning performance.

The crisp, spring air brushes against your skin as you step outside. Your face feels like you have dived headfirst into icy cold water. Your lungs fill with freshness. You feel awake, alive.

You press the button on your watch. It vibrates noisily. Your personalised starting pistol. In your head, you repeat the words “left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot” over and over again. Concentrating on the words takes your mind off the physicality of the action. You wonder why it took you so long to gather up all your courage to get outside and run.

The slow repetition of the same simple action makes you feel free. You are free from all the negativity that has seeped into your life without you realising. Images of death and destruction on the news. Sharp comments from colleagues with the power to wound you. Your crippling feeling of self-doubt.

You forget that you have been resisting this from the second you woke up. The steady rhythmical beat of your feet caressing the tarmac has a musicality that only you can hear. The wind playfully whips your hair across your face. You smile to yourself as you float down the street, enjoying the moment, enjoying being free.

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Adieu September!

30 Sep

Another month has gone screaming past us and into realm of the distance memory. I have mainly noticed how dark the mornings and the nights are getting and I’m slowly resigning myself to the fact that autumn will soon be here.

Of course September has been another busy month as well. Here is what has been keeping me out of mischief:

  • I’ve now been in my current job for 3 months and last week I passed my probation period with flying colours. Calling it a probation period makes it sound like I work in a prison but I don’t. I am very happy and pleased to have found a job that I genuinely like and where I feel my work is appreciated even though I have only been there for a short time.
  • I am also celebrating living in Switzerland for 7 years this month. If you’d have asked me if I would still be living here six and a half years ago, I don’t think I would have said yes. It’s possibly the best decision I ever made and I am very grateful that the choices that I made in life helped me to end up here. That’s not to say that everything is positive about being an expat. I also missed my nephew’s birthday this week because I live in another country. You have to learn to take the rough with the smooth.
  • I visited my 32nd country in Europe and my 55th country in the world by visiting Belgrade, Serbia this month.
  • I started going to a theatre course at the start of the month and that will last until the end of October. I like the class and all of the students and the teacher is great but I think that the course itself is a tiny bit too serious for me. I think that I would prefer to do something more light-hearted and comedy based so I might start  looking to see if there are any courses that I can do in that direction next year. Having said that I am learning tons of stuff about myself and about acting that I never knew.
  • I have finished the bonus round of Erin’s Book Challenge and I’ve smashed my reading target for the year. I had originally aimed to read 52 (one a week) and then revised it to 70 when it was clear that I would easily manage that. I have now read 75 books this year and number 76 is also well underway. I was thinking about trying to revise the target again to 100 but I don’t want to rush though books just to get to a target and not enjoy reading them. I might set my target as 100 next year.
  • I also became a published author this month. It was a non-fiction ebook about travel tips in St Gallen, Switzerland. I would rather be writing fiction but at least it’s a foot in the right direction.
  • Talking of fiction writing, I am now half way through an online writing course that I have been meaning to do for forever. I’m definitely learning and I can already see myself that my writing is improving. I hope that I will be able to finish the other half of the course in October and then in November I can sit down and get stuck into sitting down and writing with all the new things that I have learnt in my head.

And that was September: another busy but fun month. I hope your September was as good and, if not, make sure that you make up for it in October.

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Arosa Animal Adventures

18 Sep

Last weekend we headed to Arosa in glorious sunshine to get in touch with nature. Arosa is famous in the winter for being one of the best ski resorts in Switzerland but there is also plenty to do in the summer.

There is an “Eichhörnchenweg” (“Squirrel Pathway”) which you can wander down and feed squirrels and birds. 

I was sceptical that the squirrels would be tame enough to come up to you and take food from you but they did. In fact, I would say that a few of them were very cheeky. They would take the nut from you, go and bury it in the wood and then come back to get another one. It was so much fun. We even spotted a very cute squirrel who looked like he was wearing white socks – we nicknamed him “White Feet”.

Birds wanted to get in on the action as well. There were some bigger birds that I didn’t like. Their claws dug into you when they swooped down to rest on your hand and their beak dug into you when they went to eat the nuts. I liked the little birds. You don’t really realise that they have landed on your hand because they are so delicate. I felt like Snow White with little birds landing on me.

After the squirrels and birds we took a gondola up the mountain to see the bears. Unfortunately, two of the bears were sick and they weren’t outside. But Napa, part brown bear and part polar bear, was happy to show off to the crowds. The bears have all been rescued from places where they have been drugged, forced to perform and chained in small cages. It’s sad that people feel that they have to exploit animals for their own amusement. I’m sure the bears are happier now, living on a Swiss mountain being looked after properly.

Of course, there were lots of mountains on the hillside as well. I don’t feel that I have had a lunch on a Swiss mountainside if I can’t hear the jingle-jangle of cow bells in the distance.

I had thought that the summer was over and days and weekends spent like this were already over but the weather seems to be good again, so I am hoping for one or two more days like this – enjoy the weather and nature before winter really begins.

Ciao August!

31 Aug

Another month of 2019 has flown by. So far, my favourite month of this year has to be August. It’s been a busy month but also a surprising month. I don’t want to sound too philiosphical but I feel as though I have learnt a lot about myself this month.

August started off with a trip to Dublin, with the aim of taking part in a 10k race. When we booked the trip sometime in March, it felt as though I had an age to get in shape and get myself ready. But time goes by so quickly and I knew that I wasn’t in the best shape to try and beat my personal best. I had a time in my head that I wanted to beat and I managed to be it by 3 minutes – which is about as long as a lifetime in running. The first 5km I manage to absolutely fly through and it got harder past the 8km as a lack of training began to show. I surprised myself because it was the most enjoyable running race that I have ever taken part in. This was mainly because I hadn’t placed myself under weighty expectations that I normally do.

I was so motivated after the race that I was determined to keep up with the running and get myself even fitter. But that hasn’t worked out like I was expecting. I’ve surprised myself about how quickly I lost that feeling of being inspired to continue with something and how lazy I can be when I don’t have a tangible goal in place. I hope to pick up where I left off in September.

I also went to a theatre workshop. It was a taster session for adults looking into devising theatre. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. One of the artistic directors told me at the end of the session that I was a natural performer and I should harness my potential. This revelation was a shock. Just two weeks before my 37th birthday someone was pointing out to me something that I had been completely unaware of. I’m not sure what to do with this piece of information but I have signed up to some more theatre classes starting in September. Let’s see what additional revelations come out of that.

One of the orchids that I thought I had killed about four months ago has suddenly bound back into life. I had been in denial for a long time and the plant has been in the living room looking flaccid and depressing. I’m glad that I didn’t decide to bin it. The leaves are now green and healthy. New shoots and flowers and yet to appear but I have a feeling they will be coming soon.

I went paragliding this month and I loved it. I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it and it was a very strange moment when we were told to run as fast as you can until your feet don’t touch the ground no more. I am already planning when I will go for the second time.

This month I looked after a cat for the first time. I have always been wary of cats. Most of them have a villanous glint in their eyes and I still haven’t fully recovered from when the school cat scratched the back of my hand when I went to stroke him at primary school. Even now I can see the streaks of blood running down my hand. The first time I opened the door I was greeted by an affectionate cat, who wanted to rub himself (and all of his fur!) all over my legs. I was armed to the teeth with instructions and was well-briefed on what I needed to do. It soon got to the point where I was looking forward to finishing work to go and see the little fella. So that was another surprsing thing about this month. He’s a bloody poser though!

So August has brought plenty of nice surprises. I have a feeling that September could bring more of the same.

Rock ‘n’ Roll in Dublin

17 Aug

It is now a week ago that I went to Dublin to take part in my first competitive running race for almost two years and my first time taking part in the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series. We had a few days before the race to explore Dublin city and a day after to recover before coming home. I had a great time – even when considering that I had to be up early for a 10k race on Sunday. I haven’t been to Dublin for about 15 years so it was a long overdue visit.

Guinness Storehouse and Whiskey

The Guinness Storehouse recently became the Number One tourist attraction in Ireland. The last time I was there it was only a tiny place with guided tours going through a few rooms. Now it is a multi-storey entertainment palace for grown-ups. We were able to pour our own pint of Guinness, have a tasting session and see how Guinness is brewed. We ended up buying loads of merchandise from the gift shop. Travellers’ tip: the merchandise in the official gift shop is cheaper than the shops in town.

We also visited the Jameson’s Whiskey Factory but we went there after the run on the Sunday and so we weren’t up for a full-on whiskey tasting so we tried a few drams of the speciality whiskey there and that was enough for us.

Irish bars and music

We definitely found ourselves in our fair share of bars and pubs. The great thing is that most of the bars have live music on through out the day. In one place we were surprised when the guy who had served us behind the bar spontaneously starting doing an Irish jig. You don’t get that in your average boozer. We also experienced a disgruntled punter walking into the pub, having been released from the police station about half an hour before, asking for his money back for his pint that he didn’t managed to finish the previous night because the police had arrested him. You don’t get that in your average boozer either.

10k Run

The main event – the run – was on Sunday morning at Phoenix Park. I had done quite a bit of training but I knew that I wasn’t going to run a personal best time. Two weeks prior to the race I had run a test 10k to make sure that I could make my way around with collapsing. I did manage it but afterwards I felt terrible and I fell asleep in the bath for about 45 minutes. After this, I decided to aim for a time which was quicker and that I thought was achievable. On the actual day I felt really good and I flew round the first 5km. Then the hills came and it started to get tougher. At 8km when the 1 hour pace-makers overtook me, I began to dispair but I managed to cross the finish line 3 minutes quicker than I had hoped to do. Plus I didn’t feel terrible once I had finished. And my knee is still in one piece!

In fact, I had enjoyed that run more than I had enjoyed and of the training or any other race that I have entered in previously. I’m hoping to carry on with the enjoying my running until the end of autumn.

Food

We tried traditional Irish stews, pies and the like but the highlight for me was the Irish breakfast that we had on Monday morning as part of our recovery. I haven’t tried white pudding but it was delicious. Quite randomly we also ended up eating oysters three times during the course of the weekend. I tried oysters for the first time with a French friend of mine and now I can’t get enough of them.

 

I would love to go back to Ireland again soon. I love the friendly atmosphere (even though there is a long and bloody history between the Irish and the British), the liveliness of the place and I would love to go to all of the literary museums to learn more about the great Irish writers. Unfortunately that won’t be this year. My next weekend away will be in September when we visit Belgrade in Serbia. I can’t wait!

End of July

31 Jul

It only seems like five minutes ago that was sitting down to write my round-up of news at the end of June. But here we are again.

This month I haven’t been very active on the blogging front. I normally try to write at least 2 posts per week. Sorry to have taken your weekly reading away from you! I haven’t been especially busy but it is the holiday season, so I’ve used the time as a bit of a break.

Here is what I have been up to in July:

  • I started a new job on the 1st July. It was the job that I wanted more than anything when I saw the job advert and, after a delay of a few months, they finally hired me. That is putting a long story short but you hopefully get that I was so excited to join the company and get working. So far I have been impressed by the company immensely and all of my colleagues are nice. I am the only female on my team of 10 but I actually don’t mind that. Getting into a new routine, learning everything that I need to do and familarising myself with new policies and procedures has kept me busy. I can’t believe I have been there for a month already.
  • I have been busy on my commute with the latest installment of Erin’s Reading Challenge.  This is my third time taking part in the challenge. I am currently reading my 8th book which is Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. It’s a hefty book (600+ pages) but I am loving reading it and I hope that I will be able to finish it tomorrow.
  • I visited my 31st country in Europe when I went to Luxembourg earlier this month. I counted up last weekend how many countries I had visited and my total is now 56. That seems like a staggering amount, especially when there is so much more of the world that I would like to see. img_6723
  • In the evenings I have been busy training for the Rock n Roll 10k in Dublin in August. I’m not as fit as I should be so I know that I won’t be able to beat my personal beat time in this race but I’m on the right track. Over the next few days, I am going to decide on what time I think I can realistically achieve. I ran 10k last weekend (very slowly) and that should help with the realistic part. This month I have run a total of 50km or 31-ish miles. I have already set myself an ambitious target of how many kms I want to run in August.
  • Due to the nice weather most evenings we have had a BBQ and last night, even though the rain had started, we still sat outside under the cover of the balcony and had a BBQ. It was warm enough to sit out and the spots of rain didn’t manage to get us. We did have a shock when a bird unexpectedly nose-dived into the windows behind where I was sitting. It made an almighty crash. How it managed to regain control and fly off again I don’t know.
  • I discovered an interesting website this week. It’s called Forebears. You can look up your surname and find out how many people in the world have the same surname as you. It even analyses in which countries the name is most prevelant. I don’t know how the information is gathered but I am apparently one of 13 people with my surname living in Switzerland.
  • I also found out this month what 20kg of bread looks like. Tomorrow is Swiss National Day and I had to pick up the bread order for the festivities. I could barely fit all of it in the car. Tomorrow we ease into August with fireworks, festivities and a free day from work. I hope that your start into the new month is just as enjoyable

So long June!

30 Jun

When I thought that May was full of madness, I had no idea what June was going to bring. It’s been another crazy month.

Here is what has been going on:

  • I was in Berlin for a Netball Tournament at the beginning of May. It was great fun and we came 3rd overall. I still haven’t done any sightseeing in Berlin even though I have been twice now. I plan to change that next year!
  • I also had trials for the Swiss national netball squad. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it into the squad. It was a big ask a) at my age and b) considering I have only just come back to netball in the last 6 months. However, I don’t regret it for a second. Lots of people are too scared to put themselves forward to be judged and, even though I wasn’t successful this time, I enjoyed the experience. I did end up in an ambulance at the end of the day. One of my team mates fell over and sprained her ankle badly. The ambulance crew were nice enough to take all 3 of us (one patient and two team mates) to the emergency clinic plus all of our sports bags and overnight bags. My biggest regret was not turning on the blue lights; the button was in touching distance and I’m sure I could have switched it on before the paramedic realised what I was doing. Luckily, my team mate, Emma, hadn’t broken anything but she will be on crutches for a while.
  • I have finally got to grips with my bike gears. It sounds completely stupid that at my age I am only just finding this out. My excuse is that they stopped doing the cycling proficiency test at our primary school the year before I would have been due to do it so I’ve never had the chance. I never liked cycling that much as a child and, when I was at university, it was easier to walk than to come back to where you have left your bike to find out it had been stolen and you have to walk home anyway. It only took 15 minutes to look on the internet and then go out for a ride and try to remember what I had learnt. I still need more practice but I’m hoping I can tackle a few more hills soon.
  • I have completed two more of my 40 Before 40 challenges. You can read about the new sport that I have taken up here. The other challenge I will be writing about this week.
  • Just when I was getting ready to admit defeat and thrown it in the bin, my orchid has come into bloom again. Hurrah! My other one looks like it is ready to throw in the towel though. Boo!
  • I have now finished my current job and I am more than excited to start my new job on 1st July. I am nervous that my expectations are too high but I’m sure that everything will fall into place once I am there and I get started.
  • The heatwave that has hit Europe has been unbearable. The weather can be as hot as it wants if I don’t have to be dressed for the office and can have a sleep during the afternoon. I’ve had to change my running routine so that I go later in the day rather than straight after work. But at 8.30pm it is hotter than 28 degrees and is still way above my optimal temperature for running in. My app pointed out helpfully that my runs have been at an increased effort for the past week – which is 100% down to the heat!
  • I’ve applied to be a volunteer at the Youth Winter Olympic Games in Lausanne 2020. The last time I volunteered at an international sporting event was back in 2007 at the EuroHockey competition in Manchester. I thought it was time to thrown my hat in the ring and become a volunteer again.
  • I’ve also spend my first weekend back in England in 2019. My brother and I were meant to be going to see Jimmy Carr but the date has got postponed. Instead I enjoyed a weekend with family, shopping and eating and watching Toy Story 4 – it doesn’t come out in Switzerland until end of August 2019 and there is no way I could wait that long!

With a new job and unpredictability with the weather, I have no idea what July is going to bring with it but, whatever it does bring, I’m ready!