Tag Archives: birthday

One more challenge completed!

16 Sep

I’ve been thinking for the best part of the last week if I have completed another one of my #40Before40 challenges.

I wasn’t sure if that I had done counted or not but, after I wrote down on paper the criteria, I am now convinced that I have completed Challenge #20 from my list: to throw a birthday party for myself.

I can’t remember the last time I had a birthday party. To be honest, I am not really a huge celebrator of birthdays not because I don’t like getting old, but more because it is a bit of a faff to organise and people tend to let you down. I thought I make the effort to have a party and see if this time that I felt different about inviting people over to celebrate.

In my consideration of the criteria for a party, I came up with this list:

  • Invited guests
  • Uninvited guests
  • Selection of food and drink
  • Birthday cake
  • A rousing chorus of Happy Birthday
  • Presents
  • A speech from the celebrating person
  • Party game
  • Huge amounts of tidying up

Let’s look in turn at each of these:

Invited Guests

Either by Whatsapp or by mouth people received an invitation to come. My original idea was to make handmade or printed invitation but then I would need to find out peoples’ addresses to send them. It was a lot easier to send everyone a message and get a quick reply if they were able to make it or not.

Uninvited Guests

There is always someone who turns up unannounced or someone brings some one to the party who hasn’t specifically been invited. In my case, this was the neighbours’ cat. As we had a BBQ, we were outside and the cat made an appearance. I think he was scared about the number of people who were there and he didn’t stick around for long.

Selection of food and drinks

If anything, we prepared a selection of food and drinks that was far, far too much. One fridge was full with beer and the other was full with food. There was plenty of food to go on the grill, salads, finger food and desserts. We had so much left over but enough room in the freezer to save it for another time.

Birthday cake

I didn’t plan to have a birthday cake but I was fairly confident that one of my guests would bring one for me. Luckily, my friend, Stefan, didn’t let me know. He made me a fantastic Spider-Man cake that I am sure that he spent hours and hours made. It not only looked amazing, but it tasted incredible too.

A rousing chorus of Happy Birthday

I was treated to Happy Birthday in English and in German, which I think deserves double points. I think I did have Happy Birthday sung to me last year but it is an essential part of birthday party.

Presents

I was treated to some lovely presents. The main theme of my presents was a high alcohol content. I think I should be ok for alcoholic drinks from now until next March. I will need to consume it all before I take on my challenge of not drink for a year. It seems more and more unlikely that I will be able to achieve this and I haven’t decided when to start this challenge yet. I have been trying to find a “good time” to do it but I don’t think that such a thing exists.

A speech from the celebrating person

I did make a small speech to thank everyone for coming and making the party a success. I was actually really pleased about how many people had made the effort to come.

Party game

There was a Swiss game of King’s Chess that was played in the garden area outside. I’m still not 100% sure what the rule of the games were but it involved throwing wooden blocks at your opponents’ posts and being the first to knock down the King in the middle.

Huge amounts of tidying up

It’s strange that you spend so long cleaning your place for guest to come round and when they have left you have to start the cleaning all over again. The washing machine was put on about five times, the floors in the apartment had to be wasted again, the recycling taken to the recycling centre, crockery returned to the right guest and tables and chairs that we had borrowed from relatives returned as well.

Looking at the evidence, it is fair to say that I have now completed Challenge #20 of my #40Before40.

I did genuinely enjoy the party. I wasn’t able to talk to everyone as much as I would have liked (which is the downside of hosting so many people) and it was hard work getting everything ready and tidying up but it was worth it and I would do it again. Thank you to everyone who came to join the celebrations!

Another year older

5 Sep

Yesterday I celebrated by 35th birthday. I’m not really a big birthday celebratory but I was persuaded in the evening to have Raclette and a birthday cake. A choice I could never regret.

It got me thinking about the cultural differences between UK and Switzerland on the subject of celebrating aging.

In the UK a work colleague would normally arrange a cake for your day because it’s your birthday and why should you go to the effort of baking/buying a cake and hauling it into the office? In Switzerland it is very much expected that you bring something in for everyone.

I have a bit of luck on this front because 5 people from my department had birthdays over the weekend or yesterday. I know from prior years that this normally results in far too many croissants, cakes, pastries and other sweet things. I didn’t bring anything in, not because I am tight, but because I will bake something over the weekend to bring in next week when everyone’s sugar levels have reverted back to normal.

The cake thing I can deal with but not so much the hand-shaking, kissing and congratulating that comes along with it. All of these things are ok between close friends and family but I find it a bit unsettling between work colleagues.

So many people have congratulated me. But what are they actually congratulating me for? I have achieved nothing, apart from not dying and getting a day older. And I am fairly sure that they can’t possibly be congratulating me for evading death for the 35th consecutive year.

At home people just wish you a nice day and tell you not to get too drunk (because that’s the only pastime of the British). I find both of these sentiments to be much more preferable than wondering if my work colleague will shake my hand, kiss me three times or hug me.

I do sound like I’m complaining but I’m. It really. It’s these small cultural differences than I found so interesting and, sometimes, funny. Will I ever get used to these small things? Will I always find it awkward and a touch embarrassing? Only time will tell. But I will say one thing: it’s far better to be congratulated and feeling awkward than for your birthday to be forgotten.

Birthday visitor

13 Sep

One of my good friends from home, Jenny, came over to stay with me for my birthday. It was such a surprise when she asked me months and months ago if it was ok if she came. It felt like a lifetime ago wait until she was here but before I knew it, it was time for me to be a year older and she had arrived.

Here are some of the things that we did while she was visiting.

Zeughauskeller

After arriving at the main station we stopped for a few beers and when hunger hit we moved to Zeughauskeller, which is a lovely, but quite touristy, restaurant that serves traditional Swiss food.

Jenny didn’t need a lot of convincing to join me in trying a Corden Bleu, which is pork, ham and cheese in breadcrumbs with French fries. It went down a treat and so did the mass of beer that we both had. I’ll be honest I had to use two hands to pick it up! We also had a dessert, which was about the size of a UFO to follow. It hit the spot though!

Jenny's dessert!

Jenny’s dessert!

Biking and the lake

On the Tuesday, we hired some bikes and went cycling around the lake. It was the first time that I had been on a bike in a decade I think. I was a bit wobbly at the start of the day but as the day progressed it got a lot easier. Having said that it wasn’t too much fun when I managed to fall off the bike and into a hedge because I was trying to avoid a parked car. My chain slipped off as well because I was messing about with the gears when we were stopped looking at the scenery. I still don’t understand the gears on the bike. It’s a lot easier driving because you can hear when that the engine is struggling and, consequently, when you need to change gear. On a bike I always think that I’m not fit enough which is why I’m finding it tough going and not because I should change down gears!

The day couldn’t have been more perfect. The sunshine was out and it was about 28 degrees. We cycled from the main train station to Thawil and then got the ferry from Thawil to Rapperswil. In Rapperswil, we stopped for lunch at a nice pizza place that I have been to a few times before. There is also a medieval castle in Rapperswil that we looked round and they have some deer as well. It was idyllic. We then cycled from Rapperswil to Stäfa, where we stopped for a swim in the lake. Swimming in the lake has fast become one of my favourite things to do in the summer; the only problem is that I felt that I didn’t make the most of the lake swimming while I had the chance. I will do next year though! We caught the train back home and dropped the bikes off. I looked on googlemaps and saw that we had cycled about 25km, which isn’t too bad when you considered how long it had been since I had ridden a bike.

It was great fun. We both enjoyed it, even though we were both a little sore the next day.

image

Our bikes for the day, parked up as we have a well deserved break at a cafe

 

Night out with friends

After the cycling and swimming, we joined some of my friends for some drinks. I celebrated my birthday at 12 midnight on the dot with tequila! We partied into the early hours of the night and had a fantastic time. I am sure that there are a lot of pictures and videos somewhere but fortunately I don’t have any of them so I can put up a link to them

Exploring the city

Jenny and I spent the next day exploring the city. Again, the weather was perfect which helped our enjoyment of the city. Like most places, Zurich isn’t quite as nice when it isn’t basking in the sunshine. But we were lucky. It was nice to show someone round (and we discovered that I actually know quite a few facts about the city – maybe guided tours could be a sideline for me if I ever need it) and it meant that I was a tourist in the place that I live. I can’t remember the last time I wandered the streets and just had a look around. We went to Grossmünster, which is a reformed church in the Old Town of Zurich, and to St Peter’s Church, which has the biggest clock face in Switzerland.

We also wandered around the shops but it was more like window shopping because of the famous and expensive names on Bahnhofstrasse!

Jenny was kind enough to buy me lunch for my birthday and we found a lovely Italian restaurant that I have never been to before. The food was lovely. And the company was even better!

It hadn’t felt all that long since I was meeting Jenny at the station but it was soon time for her to go. It was sad because Jenny was the first person (apart from my mum last year) to come and stay with me and because she had flown over for my birthday, it was extra special. It makes me realize how much I miss people from home. I hope that she had as much fun as I did.

Jenny also bought me some presents from home; things that you can’t get that easily over here, including about 1,500 tea bags! I have worked out that if I drink 3 cups of tea a day, these tea bags will last about 15 months. So I’d best get drinking!

Birthday dinner

I went to Ascot with Jon for my birthday meal. Ascot is a lovely restaurant in the city and probably my favourite. We went all out and had the surf and turf: a 300g steak, prawns and a lobster tail. It was delicious and perfectly rounded off an excellent few days.

Where we stopped for a swim, Lake Zurich

Where we stopped for a swim, Lake Zurich