40 Before 40: Challenge #21

26 Nov

My #40Before40 Challenge #21 was to watch the whole of the first series of 24 (24 episodes) in one sitting. If you haven’t seen the show before, each episode is an hour long and represents events that happen during the day of the California Primacy.

This was taking binge watching to the extreme and was actually something that I had discussed with a friend a long time ago. As it was November and the snow hasn’t yet arrived to go skiing, it seemed like a good weekend to tick this one off the list.

From an operational level, I know that I needed to enlist some friends to help me stay awake. If enforced sleep deprivation isn’t a test of a good friendship, I am not sure what is. In the end we were 3, as I was joined by Stefan and Mark. As we wouldn’t have time to go shopping etc, I had stocked the fridge with pizza, salad, fruit, vegan chili, drinks and snacks. Stefan, an impressive baker, also brought over one of the most delicious cakes that I have ever tasted.

Because we watched the show without commercial breaks, it means we have 20 minutes in between each show to eat, have a break, etc.

So, here is how it went. Events occur in real time…

Hour 1:

Show: An assassination attempt on Senator Palmer’s life is reported and a Boeing 747 explodes in mid-air over LA. Meanwhile, Jack Bauer, an agent at the Counter Terrorism Unit, is angry that his daughter has left the house to go partying.

Us: Armed with Turkish pastries for breakfast and coffee, we are in high spirits.

Hour 2:

Show: There is a mole in the CTU, who possibly has been working with the bad guys who are trying to kill the Senator. Several suspicious glances are seen in the office. It is clear Kim Bauer is getting herself into quite a bit of trouble.

Us: The boys, who haven’t seen the show before, don’t seem to be convinced about the show. I, on the other hand, have just realised how good the show is. But I can’t remember everything that happened. We are laughing at the outdated technology in the show, like floppy disks.

Hour 3:

Show: Apparently Senator Palmer’s son was involved in a murder and this is going to be revealed in the press. Nina, has been confronted about being the mole in CRT. She manages to prove her innocence because on a specific date she was having an affair with Jack.

Us: We are not as chatty as we were in the first two episodes, but the boys seem to be getting a bit more into it.

Hour 4:

Show: It is now clear that Kim Bauer has been kidnapped. At CTU the agency is in lockdown because Jack can’t follow orders.

Us: We manage to spot a continuity error that you wouldn’t have spotted if you had watched one episode a week, as the show would have been aired in the beginning. Nokia and Ericsson phones are featuring predominately in the show, much to our amusement.

Hour 5:

Show: Kim and her friend get further into trouble as they attempt to flee their captors, despite having been drugged and beaten. Her friend is run over and left for dead in the street. David Palmer faces the journalist, who has accused her son and Jack has broken out a prisoner from jail in order to questions him.

Us: We agree that we don’t trust Janet (Kim’s friends) dad, who has been involved in looking for the girls. He seems a bit suspicious. We start discussing playing a drinking game that we have found online, where we have to drink when certain things happen or are said.

Hour 6:

Show: Janet is in hospital and, though a vital witness, she is in complex surgery and it looks unlikely she will be able to help police. Later in the episode, it is revealed that the man claiming to be Janet’s father is not her father at all.

Us: We knew not to trust Janet’s dad. Meanwhile we discuss the role of women in TV and films. I am already frustrated at how dumb the women in this show are.

Hour 7:

Show: Jack is now being directed by a bad guy, Gaines, who is involved in the assassination attempt. Meanwhile, Jack’s wife knocks out the man who she thought was Janet’s dad with a rock to the head. It is revealed that the mole in the organisation was Jamie.

Us: We can’t believe that Jamie is a rouge agent. We liked her, especially as she has changed her hairstyle three times already. I am starting to feel sleepy.

Hour 8:

Show: Jack is getting framed for the assassination attempt by Gaines. There is a complex operation, including the actual assassin tricking Jack so his prints are on the gun.

Us: The boys seem to be on the edge of their seats but I am really sleepy. We decide to go for a walk to get some fresh air and to wake us up. This turns into a jog because we walk too far and need to get back for the next episode. We are a third of the way through.

Hour 9:

Show: Jack is under arrest for plotting to assassinate Palmer but in reality he saved his life. He escapes custody in classic Bauer-esque fashion and takes a hostage and car to help him get back in touch with the unit.

Us: We don’t like Senator Palmer’s wife. She is a bit of a snake. We can’t help thinking that it would be a lot easier to track people today and to get to places because of Google maps. We’ve cracked open the crisps. I’m feeling a lot more awake.

Hour 10:

Show: Jack is again a fugitive on the run; his hostage double crossed him. A new villain is in the picture and a new head has taken over CTU.

Us: I don’t like the new CTU head and I comment that a lot of undercover things seem to be happening in the ladies toilets. This would almost never happen –  because of some strange law, women’s toilets need to be occupied by at least 2 women at all times. In this episode, we played the drinking game. One can of beer did not last long!

Hour 11:

Show: Jack takes the new bad guy, Ted Cofell, hostage. After threatening physical hart, it turns out that the man is actually Serbian. But Jack pushes him too far and he has a heart attack before he can get any information from him.

Us: There is excitement about the Serbian connection, because Stefan is from Serbia. The Serbian that is spoken is not translated but myself and Mark are told that the Serbian isn’t very good and has some mistake.

Hour 12:

Show: As I suspected, Alberta Green, temporarily in command of the CTU, is an absolute ball breaker. By now, both the wife and daughter of Jack are being held hostage in the same place, by the same people. Teri has shot one of the kidnappers, after one of the young kidnappers, Rick, has taken a shine to Kim and has smuggled them in a gun. Senator Palmer meets with the therapist who is implicating him and minutes later this office, with the therapist in it, is blown up. There is a huge cover-up under way.

Us: We laugh out loud because someone has a pager. The boys are beginning to annoy me (they actually weren’t but they were very interested in what I was noting down and I thought it would serve them right if they read this. Haha) In actual fact, we are half way through and seem to be doing ok.

I will be continuing the next 12 hours tomorrow. Will we make it through the whole show? Can I officially tick off one challenge from my list as completed? Stay tuned!

What has annoyed me most this year

22 Nov

What has annoyed me most this year is perhaps not so surprising. I have spent a lot of time in airports and travelling. It isn’t the actually travelling that has been annoying. Although at one point, I was longing to stay at home and just relax in my own environment. The thing that annoys me about travelling is other people.

If I could get to the airport, board a plane to myself and not have to interact with anyone at all during this time, I would be over the moon. Other people just make travelling more stressful.

It isn’t even other passangers that irritate me. But there is always more than one person, wheeling a trolley behind them with no ide how to control it. People wheeling luggage also forget the concept of other people and think that ambling along without a care in the world, while blocking the way for people trying to get to their gate, is a completely acceptable state of affairs.

Then there are the people who can’t possibly have been on a plane before. Nor have they read any of the 100 signs in the queue for security that say that any fluids need to be in a transparent, plastic bag. The look of surprise on their faces amazes me when they realise that they now have to rout around in the bag to get the contraband out and in the correct bag to be inspected. How can anyone not know the regulations and not ready themselves for it well in advance?

Then there is the person at security with the tray who asks, as I am unzipping my bag to get out my already-prepared, plastic bag. Once I almost turned round and said, “Give me a bloody minute will you, love?” But I didn’t know how to say it in French so I decided to give it a miss. And then she asked me if I had an iPad. I pointed to the iPad which was already sitting in the tray, waiting to be scanned. I’m sure that these people are so bored that they are trying to make conversation

Nothing irritates me more than when I finally get on the plane and someone else have take all the space in the locker above the seat. I have seen people get on planes and put their luggage in the first available locker even though they are sat at the back of the plane. Do not be these people. It is so unhelpful and a huge pain in the ass because it means that your luggage is not next to you when you come to get off. So you have to wait until you can go to the back of the plane to find it.

Taking of leaving the aircraft: where exactly do people think that they are going when they get up before the seat belt sign has been switched off. Everyone has been expressedly been told not to take off their seatbelt but people do at the first opportunity. What advantage do they think that they can gain on their fellow passangers when the crew are still strapped into their seats? Planes aren’t like buses or trains. If you don’t get off on a bus within 30 seconds or less, you have missed your stop and will have to get off at somewhere that you don’t want to. With a plane, everyone has arrived at their final destination. If you don’t get off now, it doesn’t mean that you have to wait for the next stop which is in 13 hours and is in Hong Kong. It does annoy me that people can’t take listen to instructions and do what someone else tells them to. If this is how adults behave, how can we expect children to behave any better?

Rant over. That is until I head off to the aiport again, which, knowing me, won’t be too long at all.

 

 

Anyone for Tennis?

20 Nov

For the fourth year in a row, I was at the ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday. What started as a one-time thing now definitely signals the start of the run up to Christmas. Basically, the top 8 seeded men in the world compete in the last tournament of the year.

In the first year, I was so excited because Roger Federer had made it to the final. Federer versus Djokovik – it was like a dream come true until it turned into a nightmare. Roger had injured his back in the semi-final and wasn’t able to compete in the final. I would have been annoyed but he did come out personally to apologise. Then the tournament directors managed to organised an exhibition match with Djokovik and Murray which actually wasn’t that great. Then Murray played doubles with Henman, Cash and McEnroe. We ended up getting 60% of our ticket refunded but I still hadn’t seen Federer play live and that was my dream.

The next year was a repeat of the final of the previous year but this time Federer played but got trashed by Djokovik. Last year Murray and Djokovik were battling it our for the world number one position. Murray won and, for the first time in ages, Britain had the number one ranked player in the world.

This year I was hoping for a Federer-Nadal final. That went straight out of the window, when Nadal pulled out of the tournament on Monday night because of his knee.

Since then I had been watching the games with baited breath, willing Federer to get to the Final at least. Part of the excitement of having tickets to the Final is that you aren’t quite sure of who is going to be taking part in it. As it is the Top 8 in the world who qualify, you can be sure of seeing some talent. The questions really is if your favourite is going to make it there?

So, we found a pub and watched the semi-final there. All was going great – first set was won by Federer who looked like he hadn’t even broken into a sweat. Then Goffin won the second. Hang on this wasn’t in the script…

Then Goffin broke Roger in the third set and someone in the pub decided it was time to put the rugby on. Seriously??

As we had a dinner reservation, we had to leave anyway. By the time we had WiFi again, it was all over and our favourite wouldn’t be playing for us the next day.

It was disappointing but we still had the doubles and singles final to look forward to. The seat were really fantastic. We had paid a lot but the view was great and it was worth every penny.

The doubles was a straight forward game won by Kontinen and Peers, who I had seen win at the same event last year.

I wasn’t sure who I wanted to win the final: Goffin or Dimitrov. From the beginning it was clear who the majority of the crowd wanted to win. I have never seen so many Bulgarian flags in all my life! However, I’m not sure how many of the supporters there were real tennis fans. Shouting out to put off you opponent when they are about to take a free kick is fine in football but shouting out when someone is about to serve is not fair at all. It had the potential to spoil the game.

The game itself was end to end, with beak points all over the place. For the neutral (as I live in Switzerland, this is definitely me now) it was thrilling stuff. The game went to three sets and Dimitrov was the eventual winner.

Old problem, new experience

17 Nov

This week in Switzerland I have encountered an age-old problem which resulted a new and slightly surprising experience. The three words mostly likely to instill fear and dread into a commuter back home are: replacement bus service.

After 5 years, it was the first time that have experienced this in Switzerland. They are working at night on the train line that runs through our village and, because my German lesson finishes at 9, I had to alight one stop before I would normally and take the bus.

I have taken so many bus replacement services over the year in England and I won’t be coy about it. I hate them. With a passion. I am sure that anyone who had taken them is much of the same view.

Things were different here. The bus is already waiting. The bus looks big enough to take all of the passengers. The driver responds cheerfully when you ask if this bus is going to your stop. It’s like a parallel universe.

Normally the bus replacement takes forever and the bus manages to take a route which virtually passes every residential street in the area and doesn’t seem to go the most direct route. It could be that I was lucky that my stop was the first one but I was actually home only five minutes later than I would be if the train had gone to my stop. I was also quite lucky that the service was at night and the roads were a lot quieter.

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It makes me wonder why more repairs to essential services are not done in the UK at night. It makes it a lot easier and a lot less stressful for commuters. All that seems to happen though, is that the price are increased, the services are worse and no one is happy about it.

Coincidentally, I also noticed this week that they don’t have cat’s eyes in Switzerland. I’m not sure why I haven’t realised this before. I researched this on the internet a bit and it seems that cat’s eyes are only know in UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Ireland and the US. For those of you how don’t know, cat’s eyes are a reflective device that are placed along road markings to help drivers at night. They were invented in England and get their name because the device work on a similar basis as to how cat’s eyes work.

As a child, I was traumatised by someone telling me that they actually put dead cat’s eyes in the middle of the road. I really could imagine roadworks scooping up the dead eyes and cementing them into the middle of the road.

Thankfully that story was not true but every time I see cat’s eyes, I still wonder if the cat had a good life and if he would have wanted to have lived on helping drivers stay safe.

40 Before 40: Challenge #14

15 Nov

Challenge 14 on my #40Before40 list is to eat vegan for 3 months. I haven’t started the challenge yet but I have started some research into it. I think that this challenge is certainly doable but I will have to plan in advance.

I have already had a look in supermarkets to see what alternatives they offer. One of the supermarkets here has a coconut oil spread alternative to butter. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I haven’t tried it yet because I don’t know if I am just not going to eat butter at all. I don’t eat a great deal of it anyway.

I have stopped drinking milk and have tried almold, oat and rice milk as potential alternatives. I am not particularly taken by any of them and almond milk is by far the worst. They seem to be a lot thinner than milk and a bit sweeter to the taste. I have also noticed that no matter how much I put in my cuppa, it doesn’t make it go the right colour. You will know what I mean if you are British and reading this. We have colour charts like most countries have for paint for our tea.

I have also swapped my normal breakfast of museli and youghurt for chia seed pudding made with my milk substitute, which hasn’t been so bad. Of course, when I do get going with it and I can’t have eggs and bacon for breakfast, I will definitely be complaining.

There is a good range of meat free products available in Coop. It’s mainly bean burgers, falafel and so on. All of this I can make myself, if I do manage to get myself organised. They also sell dairy free cheese. It will possibly taste like plastic but it is good to know it is there.

I have also spent quite a bit of time online researching some receipes. I googled best vegan breakfasts and I got a list of receipes that say “drizzle over a bit of honey…” If it has honey on it then it isn’t vegan. I was hoping that I would be able to find a list of lunch ideas which says “to the horseradish add roast beef”. That would make the challenge easier but I don’t think that I will find that.

I plan to start this challenge in earnest next spring/summer. As more fruits and vegetables are available in spring and summer, I think it will be easier to do it at this time of year. It will be tough not to have sausage on the BBQ but I can have grilled vegetables which I like just as much.

In the meantime, I will be continuing my search to find alternatives and ways to make sure that I get all the vitamins and minerals that I need. This is defintiely going to be a challenge! If any of you have any vegan receipes or tips that you would like to share with me, please feel free to get in touch!vegetables-2898523__340

Signs of Singapore

13 Nov

During my trip to Singapore, I found some extremely funny signs. This is a bit of an obsession for me. Some of the signs in Singapore seemed to have an underlying hint of sarcasm which I thought was great.

Can you guess what this sign was meant to be telling you?

It was actually the sign for the ladies toilets. The sign for the toilet was similar, except that the man had, what I can only describe as, a Mexican-style moustache. At first I had no idea what the sign was meant to be indicating. I think I make this pose when I am deliberately being shy and coy, like after receiving a compliment and feigning a false modest. Like, “Oh, you shouldn’t have said that. I feel all embarrassed now!” Do you see what I mean?

I saw this sign in a bar and all I could think was, yes, finally someone has had the courage to, not only say it, but to make it into a sign! For those of you who don’t know, PDA means Public Displays of Affection. 

I wish that they had had this sign in the restaurant where I ate the hot curry. The seats were on the floor around a coffee table sized table and there wasn’t a lot of space between the tables. Because they clearly wouldn’t be able to survive an hour long dinner without pawing at one another, they both sat on the same side of the table and he was virtually sat on top of me. All the kissing and cuddling almost made my stomach turn. It was a wonder I finished that curry in one piece. Seems like everything is not perfect in Paradise though because after about 10 minutes, he got his iPad out and they were playing word puzzle games for the remainder of the dinner.

This sign was in a Buddhist temple that I visited.

Surely if you do nod off in a temple and you get caught, the obvious excuse is that you weren’t sleeping but meditating and reached another level of consciousness. Seems reasonable, right?

Everyone loves a bargain. Here is one that you can’t possibly not snap up on the spot. It’s that incredible deal of buy 1cocktail and get 1. Surely too good to miss?

This sign is translated into several languages but I think the picture in the middle says it all and there is no reason for translation. Basically, it you enter someone is going to pull a large gun on you so it is probably a good idea not to enter. Maybe this is what is meant by actions speak louder than words.

I saw this in a bar in Arab Quarter. Every bar needs rules. I agree with almost all of these rules. Sexual discrimination has no place in today’s society and Spitting is a disgusting habit.

However, why can there be no flirting with the cashier? I bet they have a high turnover of staff. When I worked in bars the only thing that I had to look forward to was the occasion flirt with a customer. But maybe the staff turnover isn’t that high. The staff can also sleep in the toilet! Wow, what a perk that is! Forget the private health insurance and the extra holidays, what staff really want is to sleep in the toilet.

And finally, because I have seen this a few times on hotel phones and it never fails to make me laugh:

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In case of emergency, please phone Switzerland. Those guys are pretty good in a crisis and they will know what to do!

Bonfire Night

9 Nov

Although it might be a bit late to be blogging about Bonfire Night (it was last Sunday after all), I have just finished watching the BBC Drama Gunpowder, which is a dramatisation of the events leading up to the 5th November and the plot to kill the King of England and the politicians in the House of Parliament.

After the first installment of the three part drama, the BBC was flooded with complaints about the episode, saying that it was unnecessarily gory. I was actually quite surprised that it wasn’t gory enough. One scene showed the public executions and the camera “looked away” at the really graphic parts. You did see someone having their intestines pulled out while they were still alive, but I am sure that the guts and gore was mainly made up of sausages and other things that you might find in the bin of the local butchers. I am convinced that what went on in the Jacobian era was actually a lot more horrifying.

The drama reminded me of what a rich history we have in England. Try to explain to someone from another country that in each November we gather in a field and set fire to the effigy of a Catholic from the 17th century and they will look at you in complete dismay. In Switzerland, there is the ritual burning of a snowman in April to get rid of the winter, which has a lot more positive and much less sinister message than burning someone because of their religion.

Bonfire Night is one of the traditions that I miss. Nothing is quite so British as waiting in the freezing cold for someone to set off some fireworks. All the while complaning about how much it cost to get in and that you will not be doing this again next year. As a child I remember being so cold that I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes. I was so glad to be back in the warmth again to thaw out. By the time the next year came round we had forgot how cold a November evening could be and we were excited about going again. It’s a shame that the torch light parade that used to happen in our village stopped because of health and safety reasons. The world has gone mad.

It was Abba who said “the history book on the shelf, it’s always repeating itself”. I wonder if Guy Fawkes would have been inclined to use the same tactics today? Back then, people were complain about how the country was being run and people are still making the same complaints today. If he had have been successful all those years ago, perhaps we would have a parade in his honour and not be burning him on a pile of old wood.fireworks-2922007__340