The Problem with My Accent

22 Aug

I have never thought that my lovely Northern English accent was much cause for concern. But lately, living in Switzerland has made me more aware about accents and how I speak.

I have recently upped my German learning intensity and I have been taking classes online with native German speakers, who live in Germany. I have been more than a bit surprised that all of them (without exception) have commented on my German accent. All of them describe me as having a Swiss-German accent. This is strange because as soon as I talk to a Swiss person they will say that I have an English accent when I speak in German.

I’m not so naive to think that I have been speaking the equivalent of The Chancellor’s German but I have still be shocked about how noticeable it is that I haven’t learnt my German in Germany.

One of the teachers that I had a lesson with this week gave me the feedback that she “enjoyed my unique British-Swiss-German accent”. I’m speechless. Is British-Swiss-German even an actual thing? Or have I mistakenly started a whole new dialect all by myself?

I think I have picked up some of the vowel sounds from Swiss-German, which are quite different to standard German, because I hear these sounds all the time when I speak to people in Switzerland.

I also have problems with my vowels in English when I speak to non-native speakers. The vowel sounds that I use tend to be longer in words like ‘lunch’ and I have made a few people confused when I have said things because my accent isn’t 100% like The Queen’s. Some have even asked me how is a certain word meant to be said. To which I have replied that how I have said it IS the correct way to say it. I refuse to modify my accent – I have been working on refining it to its current state for the best part of 35 years.

Sometimes I think that a lot of the stigma related to accents is down to snobbery and nothing more. And while I have been teased about the way I say certain words in English and now in German, perhaps it’s not my accent that is the problem. Perhaps having a unique and distinct accent is something that people should be proud of instead of thinking it as a negative thing.

However, I would like to make it clear that I am officially the founder of the British-Swiss-German accent and you heard it in all of its uniqueness here first.

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Photo An Hour – August 18th 2018

19 Aug

Yesterday I took part in August’s Photo An Hour. This is a small challenge in which you try to take a photo every hour to record your day. I tend to find these days are my most productive because I want the documentation of my day to be interesting!

Here is what I got up to yesterday:

7am: Good morning world!

8am: Even though I’ve got quite a bit to do today, I’m going to do some reading. Starting this book today after finishing one last night

9am: DIY time

10am: Waiting for the second coat to dry before touching up the paintwork

11am: Painting and jobs done so it’s time for a shower

12pm: Cuppa soup for lunch

1pm: I love that our new apartment has a washing machine

2pm: Done the shopping

3pm: Washing almost dry

4pm: Finally getting started on some short story ideas

5pm: Made a game to help me learn German Modalverben. Might have to go on Dragons’ Den with this one!

6pm: Making dinner

7pm: Dinner time with newly painted table

8pm: Refreshments for film watching are ready!

9pm: Halfway through a film! My last post for the night.

Book Challenge By Erin – completed!

15 Aug

Recently I stumbled upon a reading challenge which is run via a Facebook group. The challenge is relatively easy. There are ten categories and you have to read one book from each category. The books have to be at least 200 pages long. You then have four months to read the books that you have chosen.

The challenge started on 1st July and I am pleased (and a little bit surprised) to say that on Monday I finished the challenge! I found the challenge a lot of fun and it also meant that I was able to read some books that have been on my to-read list for an extraordinary length of time and also to read some books that I would never normally even think about reading.

Here is a quick review of the books that I have been busy reading:

Freebie (any book of your choice that is at least 200 pages long)

I chose Murder Games by James Patterson. This is the easiest read on my list by a long way. I have read a lot of James Patterson books and they are an easy read. As this is my first challenge I thought that having an easier read to begin with would be a good idea. This story was about the race to stop a serial killer. A university professor and detective team up to find the killer before he strikes again. There are quite a lot of plot twists that keep you guessing right until the end!

Read a book that starts with the letter “N

I chose Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro. I really enjoyed this book. A lot of Ishiguro’s books are long and not very accessible but these short stories were easier to read. I liked that each of the stories was about music and that the first and the last stories were connected. It felt like I was reading a novel rather than several stories that had no connection with one another. I especially liked the description of the Swiss couple who are holidaying in England in the third story because I thought the mannerisms and attitude of the pair were very accurate.

Read a book that has a (mostly) orange cover

I chose Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie. I have never read any Agatha Christie novels so I thought this might be a good place to start. It was clear right from the start the a murder had been committed and it made a nice change to start in the middle of the action rather than waiting for a long build up before you knew who the victim was. The case was all solved within a matter of hours and I wasn’t expecting the twist at the end of the novel (because it never is the butler who’s done it).

Read a book that has an unlikeable character

I chose The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I think just about everyone read this during my teenage years at school – apart from me. Knowing Plath’s personal demons, I have been avoiding reading it. Although mental health is a main theme of the book, I was pleasantly surprised how well-written and engaging it was. The analogy with the fig tree would have perhaps had a greater impact on me had I have read it in my teenage years but being older I can appreciate the cleverness of the imagery.

Read a book from the list of 100 books that PBS calls “The Great American Read” 

I chose The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I have been meaning to read this for a while. There were a lot of books on the list that I thought would be interesting to read but I decided on this one. There are a lot of difficult themes that are tackled in the book, namely racism and abuse, and, although they made me think about these themes in more detail, it was necessarily an un-enjoyable read.

Read a book with something related to water in the title

I chose The Falls by Ian Rankin. I have read quite a few Rankin novels and I had this book anyway. It seemed like a good opportunity to stop this book from gathering dust on the book shelf. The book is one of many in the Inspector Rebus series and Rebus and his colleagues have to find out who killed a student. When the case is then linked to unsolved murders dating back over the last 30 years, the investigation takes an unexpected turn. There is also an interesting subplot because the student was involved in an online role playing game. It also looks like Inspector Rebus may have fallen in love finally, after his marriage fell apart because of his commitment to his job.

Read a book you’ve owned the longest but haven’t read

I chose Porno by Irvine Welsh. I am not 100% sure that this is the book I have had the longest as there are a lot of contenders for that but I have been meaning to read this for a long while. This is actually the sequel to Welsh’s Trainspotting novel that was the basis of the film of the same name. I read Trainspotting and enjoyed it immensely. Both of these books (and quite a few of Welsh’s other books) are written, at least partly, in Scottish dialect so it is a bit of challenging read, which is why it has been on the “To read” list for so long.

The start of the book was quite predictable. The characters from the Trainspotting book are now (largely) clean and drug-free but in an attempt to make a quick buck they decide to get involved in the making of a pornography film. It took a while to get going because it was obvious what was going to happen. The book is told from all of the characters perspectives which I thought was interesting. There is a plot twist at the end that I wasn’t expecting. But beware if you decide to read this – there are some characters who curse with every other word that they use.

Read a book with an emotion word in the title 

I chose The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. I recently bought this book and luckily it fits nicely into this category. Luckily (please excuse the pun), I really enjoyed this book. A interesting exploration about how much of our lives and personalities are influenced by our heritage and our family. The descriptions of the many, many Chinese superstitions and beliefs were also fascinating!

Read a book (must be at least 2 words in the title) where each word in the title of the book begins with the same letter 

I chose Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I have never read this, even though I can hear the theme tune of the TV series in my head the moment that I think of the title. I don’t know very much about the plot apart from there is a black horse in it. I was surprised that this book was written from the point of view of the horse. During the book, the horse experiences good and bad masters and how he sees other horses being treated.

Read a book featuring a character who shares your profession or a similar one

I chose Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. This is a bit of a tenuous link to my job. I work in Finance, most recently in a bank and the main character works in bonds and trades on Wall Street. This is another book that has been gathering dust and, without this challenge, I don’t think that I would be attempting to read it. This was a long book (720 pages). Although I had left this book to the end and it felt like I was never going to finish it, I think it might be one of my favourite books of all time. The plot is straight-forward but the political ramifications are quite complex. I liked the way that all the characters had strong mannerisms and how the action in the book was relentless.

There is now a bonus round to the challenge which I have decided to take part in. You have to choose another book from each of the categories but you get extra credit if you read something that someone has already selected. I am not sure if I will have time to complete another 10 books but I will let you know if I do!

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Challenge #25 update

11 Aug

I am continuing in my quest to cook every recipe from one cookbook. As I also recently took up the challenge of eating a vegan diet for three months, I chose a vegan cookbook for this challenge.

As the challenge stands I have now cooked and eaten 57 recipes out of a possible 100. The end is getting closer. Here is a quick review of the recipes that I have recently completed.

Tuscan Bean Salad

This was a really easy recipe to make. I have never cooked with Haricot Beans before so it was good to get familiar with another ingredient. I made enough of this to feed about 30 people so it was good that it kept in the fridge for a while which enhanced the flavours.

Arabian Lentil Salad

After finally perfecting the art of cooking green lentils, this recipe was also easy to make. It is a good accompaniment to vegetables because we ate it with grilled peppers and sweet potatoes but you could also eat it on its own as a big salad.

Vegan Mayonnaise

This was my second attempt at making this; the first time went horribly wrong and I had to throw it all away. Although the consistency was like mayonnaise, I found the taste a bit odd and it took me a while to get used to it. I must say that there are much easier recipes for vegan mayonnaise on the internet and on Youtube with fewer ingredients and processes so I am not sure that I would use this recipe again. Also a lot of supermarkets now have the vegan equivalent for mayo. I’m inclined to be of the opinion that life it too short to be making mayo from scratch anyway…

Tartare Sauce

I had no idea that tartare sauce had capers in it. You learn something new everyday. The base of this sauce was the vegan mayonnaise and then cucumber, herbs and capers were all added. It was easy to make and surprisingly tasty.

Thousand Island Dressing

Again the basis of this sauce was the vegan mayonnaise and then tomato ketchup, chilli and herbs were added. A really delicious sauce that would be a good addition to a sandwich.

Smoky Paté

I wasn’t too sure about this. Part of the problem was that my blender wasn’t quite big enough for all of the ingredients and the resulting mixture ended up being a bit on the coarse side. However, it was nice on the top of some bread and some vegan crackers that I found.

Spinach Tofu Scramble Wrap with Rocket

This is possibly the greatest triumph so far. When I presented this to my boyfriend, he asked when I had gone to buy eggs. That is how convincing the tofu scramble was as an egg scramble substitute! I had some tofu left over from another recipe to use to make this so it is a simple way to use up some leftover ingredients.

Homemade Hot Dogs

The whole way through this recipe I was thinking, “There is no way that this is going to remotely resemble a hot dog at the end. It was fairly complicated and it was only when I came to cook them that I realised that you had to steam them to cook them. We don’t have a steamer. Luckily, Google was on hand to help me “build” one at home and that did the job. I was very surprised at how well they turned out and they tasted better than I thought they would.

Homemade Currywurst

The recipe used the Hot Dogs from the recipe above and was basically a sauce to eat with the hot dog. The curry sauce really was delicious and I could see me making it again and again for vegetable and meat dishes.

Mezze Green Beans

Such a simple dish but tasty, especially as now is the season for green beans so you can get them in the supermarkets for a reasonable price. As the recipe called for garlic, I think I might have put too much in the dish (definitely more that what was stated in the recipe) so it kept the vampires away at night!

Redcurrant and Coconut Turnovers

I left out the coconut in this recipe because I am not a big fan of coconut. It is also coming to the end of the redcurrant season so I knew it would be good to get this recipe finished or I would have to wait a year for this to come into season again. Although this is a dessert, we actually had some of them for breakfast. I am still amazed that it is possible to make pastries and cakes without dairy products. This recipe used baking soda, bicarbonate of soda and lemon mixed with plant-based milk as a raising agent.

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Juicy Mandarin and Chia Seed Muffins

As I couldn’t find mandarins in the shops, I used a blood orange instead. The recipe called for three different types of flour in this mixture and the cake itself is heavier than a traditional sponge recipe but it was yummy to eat.

Raspberry and Chocolate Windmill

This was a disaster and such a pain to make. I had to use fresh yeast (for the first time) and the dough itself ended up ok. The problem was that the recipe needed vegan custard powder which I couldn’t find here in Switzerland. So I made my own vegan custard. I think that the custard wasn’t thick enough and it didn’t end up looking like it did in the book. I was disappointed with the result because the cake ended up being heavy and too rich. I might try this another time if I can find vegan custard powder because I think it could be a good recipe for parties and so on. But with my substitute custard powder it definitely wasn’t a crowd pleaser!

On the move…

6 Aug

In the current heatwave that we are having, it’s best to stay indoors and do as little as possible. Unfortunately, it has been virtually impossible for me to do this this week because it has been moving week. This has involved carrying heavy boxes down never-ending flights of stairs for what feels like a lifetime.

I knew that I owned a lot of books but physically carrying each and every one of them down the stairs in this heat has made me realise how impossibly long my to-read list is. The plus side is that if I do manage to read all of these books, I will definitely be able to win a series of Mastermind.

It is a long and boring task but it had to be done. I am now adjusting to life in a much bigger apartment and not knowing that I have unpacked properly and what has been left in a bag that will become the study because I don’t quite know where it “belongs” yet. It could take a while before I settle in completely. Just today, for instance, I got off the bus and immediately started walking in the other apartment and then realised that I don’t live there anymore.

Aside from the arduous task of unpacking and finding a place for our belongings in the new place, we also have to completely clean the old apartment before we hand it back to the landlord. Luckily, we have a few weeks before this needs to be completed. But Swiss apartments are carefully checked for signs of damage before the deposit is released to the former tenant. Cleaning is also not a fun activity to do in this weather (or any weather, in fact) but it looks like next week will be a bit cooler so it can wait until then…

Also a quick thanks to our friend, Mark, who ably assisted us in getting the last few heavy items of furniture out of the old place. He was rewarded with a few cold beers and a steak on the grill. I was more than a little concerned when he said, if he got this for helping us every time we moved, he would help us move next week as well. Thanks but no thanks, Mark. We are definitely staying put!

Happy 727th Birthday Switzerland!

1 Aug

1st August is the official date of birth of the Old Swiss Confederation. It also means that the whole country gets a day off (but only if the day falls on a weekday).

I will never forget that Switzerland was founded in 1291 because when we were in Sao Paulo we found a trendy place for food and drink (see the picture below).

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When my boyfriend said that this place must have been the idea of a Swiss person, I asked why and then he explained that 1291 was the year that Switzerland came into existence. I will now never forget this date, which might come in useful if I ever decide to apply for Swiss citizenship.

At the ripe old age of 727, Switzerland isn’t looking too bad…

Things I have learnt in July

31 Jul

I didn’t write a list of things that I learnt in June but here is what I have learnt in July.

1. I have no idea how much food I need to cook for 9 people. I think I catered for about 30 at my Vegan BBQ. But if I ended up in the situation where people went home with hungry bellies I would never forgive myself. It turned out that it fed 9 people on the Saturday, 6 adults and 2 children on the Sunday and then us for the next 4 days. Luckily nothing was wasted and I have convinced myself that some of the dishes improved by having a few more days for the flavours to infuse.

2. Writing a CV is an art form. I have recently been on a course to help me improve my CV and to be able to present myself better when applying for jobs. I thought that it might not be the best use of time but I have thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt a lot. I didn’t think that there were so many way of presenting yourself on two sides of A4 paper but there are. Of course, the hardest part of writing a CV is trying to show your good points without sounds like a show-off.

3. Rondini and Dodi are both types of courgette. I found this out at my Vegan BBQ when I asked guests to bring along an exotic vegetable with them. There was me thinking that there were only green and yellow courgettes.

4. It is obligatory in Europe to drive with your lights on, irrespective of whether it is during daylight hours or not. I have been using the car for the past year and only just found out last week. Luckily, I didn’t find out because the police stopped me but because my boyfriend shouted at me. Actually… it might have been better to get stopped by the police because they might have been a bit more understanding (!)

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5. I miss rain. I really do. The grass is looking yellow and scorched and I feel hot and bothered the whole time. I am hoping for some cooler weather soon.

I hope that you have learnt some interesting things in July as well.