Tag Archives: British

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

Swiss v British advent calendars: Discuss

14 Dec

After years of complaining that I haven’t had an advent calendar for, well, years, I have 3 this year. Oh yes, three all to myself. I was nicely surprised when I went back home for a weekend in November, when my mum had bought me one and two friends on two separate occasions bought me one when they came round for dinner.

As the Swiss are known for chocolate you would assume that the Swiss advent calendar(s) would be better. In the interest of science (and maybe out of boredom), I have made an experiment to finally expose the makers of the best chocolate advent calendar in the world. Please note: only two countries were available to be entered into the experiment, so the claim of “best chocolate advent calendar in the world” might be overstated.

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The British advent calendar is definitely for kids but as it was bought for me by my mother I don’t see the problem with this. There is a big cartoon Father Christmas on the front and behind the doors is not only a delicious chocolate but a task to perform. For example, this morning it was “Can you draw Santa’s sleigh?” You know, it took me a good 20 minutes but it turns out I actually can. Another one said, “Give people hugs at Christmas” which I think is lovely advice which shouldn’t just apply to Christmas or just give to children. Can you imagine a world where the first thing you did in the morning was to be told to give hugs to people you meet, even strangers? What a nicer place it would be to live in than this planet. On a slightly negative note, the chocolates are a bit small.

Both of the other calendar are made by Läderach. I don’t think I had heard of Läderach before I came to Switzerland. It’s now a firm favourite of mine. The chocolate has a smooth, luxurious taste: a caramel and chocolate explosion in the mouth, melting away like a snowflake dissolving on a tongue. One of the Läderach calendars looks like a little village. It has 3 parts and each of the doors is a door to the house in the village. The houses that make up the village are a winter scene so it doubles as a small decoration as well.

It’s a very hard decision to make a decision. The calendar that my mum bought me is Cadbury’s chocolate and there are days over here when I can’t help but crave a Boost. These are one of the chocolate bars you definitely can’t get over here. I know, I have tried. But chocolate is what the Swiss do best…

On this occasion I will settle for a draw because chocolate is chocolate so everyone’s a winner.

Things that I miss about home

29 Aug

After almost 11 months living in Switzerland I have come to appreciate and miss some things from home that I have taken for granted. It is funny the things that you end up missing.

This list is not exhaustive but it is around 80% there.

  • Conversations – my German is still pretty appalling and I don miss having a proper natter with, not just a native English speaker, but a native British speaker. Otherwise you can get yourself messed up in all sorts of problems trying to explain what the different is between a bonnet and a boot or how to pronounce ‘aluminium’ proper with an American. And I miss innuendo. yes, it’s childish and immature but it’s bloody good fun.
  • Washing machine – this one sounds bizarre. But from leaving my washing machine behind in the UK, of which I was the sole user, I now have a communal machine to use. I can only wash on certain specified days and at certain specified times which can be annoying. Creeping down to the basement to check if the machine is free and waiting until the machine is free, reminds me of university days when you used to be desperate to do washing but all the machines are free. Every Tuesday and Sunday I can do my washing. What if I want to go out? I then lose my time and I have to go without. It’s frustrating. I am now at the point where I have to organize my washing around my social life. What I can’t understand is that I have a dishwasher in my apartment. Surely it would make sense for each apartment to have its own washing machine and do away with the dishwasher? All the times when I set the washing machine to on without a care in the world at home is now a million miles away.
  • Food – while being in Switzerland I have eaten quite a lot of foods that I haven’t had before, like lobster, sushi and sashmi, but there are some times that you just want a British classic. I can’t remember the last time I had chips and gravy, or steak and kidney pudding and chips, or a Boost! Being away from home makes you crave comfort food; food that reminds you of the good old days of your childhood. And you can’t find those classics over here. In fact you can’t find a chippy over here FULL STOP. I actually think it’s a huge opportunity to make money by opening a decent British chippy, with the large British expat community. Once I work out where to source the fish from (Switzerland is a land locked country after all) then it’s all systems go!
  •  Humour – sort of related to point 1. Having a common point of reference is the basis for most of the funniest jokes. If you have to explain the joke it isn’t going to be funny; more a long explanation of yet another cultural difference. Everywhere I go people tell me that the British have a wicked sense of humour. But, trust me, we don’t when we are far away from home.
  • Family and Friends – perhaps the most predicable one of them all. Leaving behind a country, a house, a job is the easy part. The hart part is finding new people to share your new experiences with. No one can suddenly fill in a gap which used to be filled by your oldest and bestest friend. I have hear a quote that it is sharing the little things that are what really make relationships. I think it takes a long time to find the right person to share those little things with. And little by little, I can see myself drifting slowly away from the lives of people that I know back home. I hope when I’m next home for a visit there are no hard feelings and we can carry on from where we left off.