Tag Archives: life

The Road to Hell…

14 Jun

They say that the Road to Hell is paved with good intentions and if this is true, then I definitely have more than one foot on the cobbled stones. You see it was never my intention to have an extended pause from writing my blog when I got back from holiday. But it happened. It was an accident, an unintentional slip after I had tried so hard to continuing to blog while I was in Asia.

Sometimes when circumstances are difficult we manage to solider on regardless, like when I persevered blogging, without a laptop, but using an app on my iPhone which was made even more infuriating by my fat fingers mis-typing every second word. When things are infinitely easier, we tend to slip up.

I arrived back in Switzerland after my adventure (on reflection, it definitely was an adventure) and was straight back into work mode. It saddens me how easy it was to slip back into the work routine. Get up. Work. German lessons or hockey training (depending on what day it is). Home. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Within a few days and back into the frustration of daily work trivialities, it is easy to forget how big the world is, how many possibilities there are out there and how amazing my experiences on the other side of the world were.

So in the last six weeks that is what I have been up to. It’s nothing very exciting but it is what it is. One of the things that I am terrible about doing, when I get back from holiday, is sorting and organising my photos. I take thousands and thousands of photos. A lot of the time, I take pictures of things that are not even that interesting but I was determined this time to sort them properly and make a picture book so have to look back on. The actual organising of photos took at least 3 days (I did say I take a lot) and in the end I got bored so there are some that are not yet sorted properly.

Making and editing the actual book was like reliving the whole holiday: things I have seen, things I have eaten, things I refused to eat (they have some quirky things that are classed as food in Asia). It already brought back some great memories and as they say a picture paints a thousand words.

I did head to less humid climates in May – Manchester. It was a trip I had planned in October last year with a friend. The reason was the 25th Anniversary Take That tour. Unfortunately, due to circumstances that were all too tragic and well documented. The concert didn’t take place. It made me realise that we are living in a time when violence and terror is now on our doorsteps, whereas just a few years ago was confined to places that we can’t spell or would never ourselves visit.

Nevertheless, I flew back to Manchester because it was time to see friends and family: People who I am separated by distance on a regular basis. Time at home can sometimes be extremely time pressured but it also gives some unexpected surprises, like bumping into my godmother at the supermarket.

The next month will continue to be high paced as a trip to Edinburgh is planned and I have my German exam looming on the horizon at the beginning of July. For those of you who know me this is good enough reason to give me a wide berth until the afternoon of 8th July. Before exam stress levels =off the scale.

Until the panic sets in, I am happy  sit on the balcony, watching the sunset over my little garden while updating my blog. This feeling may not last long. I will enjoy it while it lasts.

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Last few nights before home

1 May

After the Farewell dinner and drinks, I did not get up early on Thursday morning. I got up and transferred to my next hotel in the city, which happened to be the one where I had stayed for the first two nights in Bangkok. I hadn’t planned anything specifically for today because I knew after being on the road for so long I wanted to have time to relax and just do whatever I wanted. Also, from experience, the Farewell drinks on these sorts of trips never finish before midnight so I had already taken that into account.

I spend the day trying to stay cool and doing some shopping. One thing about the shopping centres in Thailand is that they are well air-conditioned and huge. The main shopping centre near to my hotel was Terminal 21 and each floor has a theme. The London themed floor even had a double decker bus parked on it!

The next day was an early start as I had booked to go on a trip to see the Bridge Over the River Kwai. This was a film that my dad had made us watch countless times when we were growing up so it one sense I felt obliged to go and see it. To get there we got into some motorised boats and were given life jackets that would have been useless in an emergency. The scenery en route was lovely and the river itself seemed relatively clean.


If I am brutally honest I was a bit disappointed. For some reason, I had it in my head that it would be a lot bigger than it actually was. The bridge was original but was reconstructed after the allied bombing shattered the bridge.

After the viewing of the bridge, we went to the museum which told the history of the Thailand-Burma railway and what the conditions were like for the POWs who were forced to build the bridge. Again, this was an eye-opener and part of history that I never learnt about in school. Something else to go on the history reading list when I get back home. The facility is also continuing research into the POWs who were detained and forced to build the railway and, if you have a relative who was a POW, you can receive all the details that you have about them for the cost of the print out.

There was also a cemetery to visit where more than 6,000 of the POWs who died are buried. The cemetery is impeccably maintained and even while we were there there were 6 gardeners tending to the lawns and flowers.

We drove for about 40 minutes and then took the Thailand State Railway from Nam Tok to Tha Kilen. The scenery was stunning along the way as we crossed over the Tham Kra Sae Bridge. It was interesting to travel through the countryside and see a bit how local people live. The carriage was nice but even in our “expensive” carriage for tourists who pay slightly more than the locals for nicer seats, it wasn’t so comfortable. The seats were wooden and across the train tracks you could feel every bump and divert along the way.


We transferred back to our hotels. This took longer than expected, partly because it was Friday evening. The Bnagkok traffic really is crazy. It seems that there are more rules in Thailand than in Cambodia or Vietnam but the vast quality of vehicles is mind blowing. It takes so long to get anywhere. The problem is that the public transport, like trains and metros, are not part of the infrastructure in certain parts of the city but as there is no alternative people have to sit in the traffic.

The next and penultimate day I had a bike tour of Old Town Bangkok. It seems crazy to be cycling round in Bangkok in the heat but this was why I had booked onto the morning tour. Luckily, the weather had cooled down a bit and it was a bit cloudy. It was still hot as we were cycling though. The tour was not quite what I expected but in a good way. We cycled along through back streets and residential streets. It reminded me a little bit of the opening credited of Naked Gun. I was disappointed that I didn’t have a Go-Pro because I am sure that it would be interesting to play it back and see the whole tour again. We did get some strange looks when we were cycling around.

I asked our guide why more of the locals didn’t cycle around the city. She explained that Thai people are a bit lazy and that it was dangerous! But not so dangerous that tourists can’t go around the city. I had already checked that the company had comprehensive insurance(!)

On the tour, we saw the hotel where Hangover 2 was filmed, tasted Roti – a sweetened version of the Indian dish, which is served with condensed milk and sugar and bananas, cycled through Chinatown and visited Buddhist, Hindu and Chinese temples. What I didn’t realise is that 60% of Thailand’s population is descended from Chinese and you can see this in the influences on food, religion and in the faces of the people (That sounds a bit racist but that is not how it is intended).

At the Buddhist temple, which was a temple dedicated to friendship and partners, the guide gave us a lotus flower and showed us how to fold it. I can’t remember if I mentioned but on the night Tuk-Tuk tour I previously did, they showed us how to fold the lotus flower but this was a different technique. Being the smart arse that I am I did two different folds on my flowers. We actually went into the temple and left the lotus flowers as an offering to Buddha. I’m not really sure how I felt about this as I’m not a Buddhist but I thought it was a nice touch anyway.

The last stop was to feed turtles at another temple. There were so any turtles it was unbelievable and the greedy things would come straight up to you and eat the lettuce leaves out of your hands. Some of them were big bullies and would literally push the other smaller turtles out of the way. All’s fair in true love and war.

All in all the tour was great: it exceeded my expectations and was a great last thing for me to do in Bangkok. In the afternoon, I wandered around some shopping centres and had a manicure and pedicure which I never do at home and was unbelievably cheap in comparison with what we pay here.

The next morning it was time to pack my bag and head to the airport. At the airport I had a Thai massage. It was more expensive that you could get for it in town but I had Bhat to use up! Thai massage is fully clothed and involves the therapist pressing on pressure points. I was seriously concerned I was being assaulted. It felt so awful and really hurt while she was going it. She was slapping me about and kneeing me in the back while pulling my arms until they cracked. I was convinced that I would have bruises all over me the next day. When she was finished it did actually feel ok and I felt a lot better. The price we pay for relaxation!

I arrived home in Switzerland to a lovely 18 degrees which was great because a few days earlier I had heard it had been snowing and I only had sandals to wear home. My trip had been a lot more than I had expected but I was sure that a night in my own bed was going to be like a dream come true…

Miss Saigon – Part 1: Vietnamese Food

17 Apr

After swapping my Swiss Miss (via Thailand) for Miss Saigon, I was eager to get my teeth into something tasty. I’m not sure I could name one Vietnamese dish, apart from maybe a noodle soup.

At 6pm, only a few hours after I booked into the hotel, I was collected for a Street Food tour which also included a tour of the the most famous places at night. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting for the guide to turn up on a motorbike, pass me a helmet and tell me to get on the back!

I’ve never been on a motorbike before and from my limited experience so far I’m not convinced that Vietnam was the best place to start. Ho Chi Minh City has a population of 10 million people and a motorbike population of just of 5 million. If Holland rode motorbikes instead of pushbikes this is  exactly how the Netherlands would be like. It doesn’t seem that there are too many road rules. People go where they want to. Roundabouts are a logistical nightmare. You round a corner on a main road and in the middle of the road is a man in the road struggling to push a cartful of mangoes up the hill. Gulp!

Luckily my guide was a careful driver and didn’t drive too fast or wildly. At first, I was hanging on to the poor sod for dear life but I soon got used to it. He left me outside a shopping centre while he parked up the car in the multi-storey. It wasn’t long before 3 children came up to me. Instantly, I put my guard up: I wasn’t sure if this was a trick to somehow distract me while an amigo helped themself to my bag. In the background, I could see a woman smiling ear to ear and I realised these were her children. The children simply wanted to practice their English with me. They told me they learn English at school and they practice as much as they can with foreigners visiting the city. One of them asked me if I was sad because I was on holiday alone? I said, no, I was having a great time anyway.

My guide took me to enjoy broken rice and poor spare ribs in a small restaurant. Broken rice is very common in Southern Vietnam and the grain of the rice is actually very small. The food was tasty as was the apple and grapefruit juice. We wondered around the main plaza which was alive with people. There are water fountain displays and lots of people were out enjoying the weather because it was Sunday. In the middle of the plaza and in front of the government buildings is a statue of Ho Chi Minh who the city is named after. I had no idea that the city is named after a person and I’m not sure there are many cities in the world that can claim that. 


After we met with a friend of his, who is also a tour guide. I think she wanted to practice her English, which was fine with me. We set off on the bikes again and crossed the Saigon River. On the bridge we made a quick stop to collect some corn that is typical Vietnamese. It was warmed with chili, spices and onions. Next stop was a few minutes away and was where the action was happening. In the evening young people gather on the bank of the river and barbecue. We found a street seller and had some fish kebabs, sausages (a bit like a German wurst), deep fried eggs in batter and a Vietnamese-style lemonade that had passionfruit in it. After stuffing myself to bursting point (as usual), we drove home in the tunnel going under the River and was back at the hotel.

The next morning was an early start. I had a cooking class to go to! Because of the bad traffic I was left waiting in the hotel lobby for 40 minutes, but the tour company had phoned in advance to tell me they would be late.

After getting stuck in traffic and arriving even later, I arrived for the class. I was in a group with four other ladies (2 Swedes, 1 from Portugal and a British lady who has been living in South Africa for almost 30 years). To being with we went to collect our ingredients and learn more about them. All of the produce is grown or produced at the site, with the exception of sugar and oil which they buy from the local market. It was so interesting to pick my own lemongrass and see how it is grown. They also grown their own oyster mushrooms in a really unique way in rubber plant shavings and plastic bags. 

I also found out how peanuts are grown. Did you know they were grown underground? When you taste them before they are roasted (like we did) they taste like peas. Really! They do! That must be why we call them peanuts in English. Thinking about it some more in German the word is Erdnuss coming from Erd for earth and Nuss from nut, which is exactly how they are grown!

On to the cooking and I was so glad to hear that we were cooking 4 courses! The first was spring rolls with a homemade dipping sauce, which I have always wanted to have a go at but I was too nervous to give it a go. They are so easy to make and I will definitely be making them when we get home and no we didn’t make that rice paper! That would have been a step too far for this amateur chef! 

Next up was a papaya salad with fried beef with lemongrass and ginger! Delicious and more and so simple to make again! Luckily, the chili was mainly for decoration for this dish or I would have been suffering later. Next was a chicken and mushroom dish that was marinaded and cooked in a clay pot. Again deliciousness personified! It didn’t look as attractive as the other dishes but the smells and flavours were incredible. 

Dessert was a banana spring roll. I have never heard of this before and to say I was sceptical was an understatement. Served with coconut icecream (I’m not a huge fan of anything coconut), it was a dream and a perfect ending to a fantastic experience and meal. Throughout the day I had learnt a lot about marinades and sauces as well as ingredients and flavour combinations. 


Our chef for the day was Mi (pronounced Me) and she helped us to prepare the dishes and answer our questions. She was a great head chef and was knowledgeable and funny (even though she told me off for forgetting to put herbs in my second spring rolls). The whole operation is run by Chef Tan who has appeared in cookery programmes with Gordon Ramsey. He told us he has two restaurants in Melbourne as well as his cookery school. If you are in the area, I highly recommend this experience to anyone and everyone. The atmosphere and staff are excellent and, even though the  course is commercially designed, it loses none of its charm and authenticity.

After the cooking class, I went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This is a large network of connecting tunnels underground that the Vietnamese people used during the Vietnam war to evade capture from the Americans. It’s incredible that people lived underground with living rooms, workshops and medical quarters. It was also possible to go underground and see the size of the tunnels, which have actually been enlarged for tourist to see how life was like. The tunnels are narrow, dark and oppressively hot. I have no idea how much willpower these people must have needed to survive.


I don’t know very much about the Vietnam war but I will go home and read up about it. It’s a war on recent history that I never learnt about at school and is definitely a war that has shaped modern day Vietnam. History is important and it can helps us understand the world today.

Traffic jams stop me getting to the hotel in good time but enough time to relax by the pool with some very cheap beer before another long day tomorrow.

A Grand (National) Day Out

10 Apr

For the weekend, I popped home for the weekend to watch The Grand National. The most famous steeplechase in the world is possibly the only event that I have placed a bet on in my life. I am discounting the times when we have gone to the races or even the greyhound races as a family and have done our own “in-house” betting; in which we each put a pound in and the winner gets to keep the money in the pot.

Going to the races live was not a opportunity that I was going to miss. I sorted out an outfit with a dress and hat that I already had. I decided to buy a new pair of shoes (without a heel) so that I would be able to comfortably walk around and enjoy the day without the agony and worry about staying in hills all day. More on this later…

thumbnail_IMG_5123On the day of the race, the weather was glorious and that is not an understatement. There was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was out in style. The metaphorical cloud on the horizon was the fact that several rail companies in the north west were striking on the final day of the National – the day that we had tickets for. Luckily, there were still trains from Liverpool Central to Aintree at the time of the day when we needed it. No other trains were running at all. It was quite funny to see the train schedules on the screens in the train station and all of the trains going to Aintree and nowhere else.

We arrived in good spirits and soaked up the atmosphere while we waited for the racing to begin. There is a walking tour of the actual race course that you can do before the races start but my new shoes were already being to rub and hurt me like crazy so I gave that one a miss. It was also possible to see where Red Rum, the most famous horse to ever run in the National, was buried near the Finishing Post.

I didn’t bet on the first race because I was a bit indecisive and I realised that the races aren’t as exciting when you know that you will not benefit financially from one of the horses crossing the line first. For the second race, I put a fiver on Finian’s Oscar to win. I chose the horse because it reminded me of Finigan’s Wake, the novel by James Joyce. The luck of the Irish was on my side because I won 18 pound, 75 pence when the horse crossed the line first. And it was much more exciting to watch as the race enfolded.

I won another 6 pound on the next race and then I guess my luck ran out because I didn’t win a penny after that. It was still exciting though. The atmosphere when The Grand National finally got underway was thrilling. After two false starts and a lot of groaning and disgruntled spectators, the crowd erupted in excitement. It is always difficult to work out which horses have fallen, who is still in the race and if there is still some chance of financial gain at the end of it. But without the benefit of the TV and the list of the horses who have fallen popping up on the screen, it is virtually impossible. No surprise that there was no final win for me.

Meanwhile my feet were painful and blistered. I had managed to cope in the knowledge that I would just need to get the train, then the bus and I would be able to the shoes off and put my trainers on. Luckily I didn’t have to wait that long as there were people handing out flip-flops to ladies, like me who had worn unsuitable shoes for the day. The best thing was they were free! I would have paid a lot of money for those flip-flops if they had made me. The relief was instant and I was a lot more comfortable on the way home.

On the Sunday, I caught the train and headed timage1o Manchester, where I met my brother and his kids and we drove to my mum’s house. I was treated to a lovely, and unexpected Sunday Roast, and we went for a walk to feed the ducks. On the way back, we managed to see some lambs who had been born only a few hours before.
All to soon, as it always seems to be, it was Monday morning and I was back at the airport again, queuing to have my bag scanned and waiting for the plane to be ready to head back to Switzerland and back to work…

A Norwegian Getaway

2 Apr

After having the first BBQ of the season on Thursday evening, I was ready for holidaying to start. On the Friday, I jetted off early to Oslo in the hope that the weather forecasts were completely wrong. Up above the clouds and seeing the sun, I was thinking that the weather was going to be a lot better than predicted. My hopes were shattered when we descended under the clouds and I could see a coating of snow on the ground! I was glad my gut instinct of bring layers and hat and gloves had been correct.

The train from the airport to the City centre was quick and I had arrived by 10am. Although there was no snow in the city, it was foggy and grey but at least not the rain that was forecast. As the weather was not great and I had bought the Oslo Pass which includes entrance into 30 museums, I decided to be a culture vulture.

After a wander round to get my bearings, the first stop was the Nobel Peace Centre. Last year I went to the Nobel Centre in Stockholm, Sweden so I thought it would be nice to see the exhibition about the Peace Prize. The museum itself was quite small and, in my opinion, not as good as the museum in Stockholm. The main display was an exhibition of all the winners of the prize on iPads. When you walk up past the iPads, it activates the screens and gives more information about the prize winner. It took me a while to realise that when a screen is activated a musical note plays, so that when there are more people in the room looking at parts of the installation it produces a, well, for want of a better word, a peaceful atmosphere.

I moved next to the Munch museum (which is apparently is pronounced “Monk”). I was expecting to see The Scream, which seems like a reasonable assumption but it wasn’t there. In fact, the museum doesn’t have a permanent exhibition. The paintings are changed regularly so it could happened that it’s hit or miss what you see. I personally wasn’t a fan of what I saw.

The Natural History Museum was the next stop and I came face to face with a T-rex. I had no idea that the museum had a T-rex so it was a nice surprise. I always found Natural History Museums a bit macabre as a child and I guess I still do. But the stuff about dinosaurs and fossils are pretty cool.

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I had already booked a Fjord cruise but by the time I left the museums, it was rain. The weather forecast was right. It was bucketing it down. The boat had no sides and the only roof was a canvas. Luckily there were blankets provided but it didn’t do too much to keep me warm. My idea of what a cruise on the Fjords would be like was not what I expected. Because of the foggy and the mist, there wasn’t anything to see. It was just grey. The only way I can describe it is that if Manchester was on the sea and they put on cruises it would be exactly like that: Raining, cold and grey. I can imagine that in the summer when you can see all the islands with their greenery, with the sun beating down that it has a certain majesty about it. By the time, I disembarked I wasn’t able to feel my feet. I was glad to go for something to eat to warm up.

The weather on Saturday was unfortunately much the same. So, it was time for more museums. On the Fjord cruise an American family had told me that they had been to the Fram museum and highly recommended it. I headed there first. The Fram museum houses the Fram, a boat that was used in Polar exploration. There was lots of information about the race to get to the North Pole between Scott and Amundsen, who was Norwegian. It was even possible to board the Fram and go into all the cabins and see how the ships worked. I have no idea how it must have been to go into the unchartered territory with limited provisions, nevermind having to cope with the cold all those years ago without the technology that we have today.

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Next to the Fram museum are also the National Maritime Museum and the Kon-tiki Museum. I’m not all that interested in martime history and I only really went because it was free. I am sure that it would be really interesting if boats through the ages was your thing. The Kon-tiki musuem was dedicated to the work of Thor Heyerdahl who in 1947 made an expedition from South America to French Polynesia because he wanted to prove that the people of Polynesia had a link to Peruvians. To prove it, he took 5 other friends on a raft, called Kon-tiki made out of wood across 4,000 miles of ocean. The original vessel that they sailed on was in the museum. It’s an incredible story – not least when Heyerdahl not only had a fear of water and wasn’t able to swim. One of his most famous quotes is: “Borders? I have never seen one, but I have heard they exist in the minds of some people” Perhaps if more people had this view of life that there would be less conflict in the world.

Next I headed to The National Gallery because, after a bit of research, I had found out that this was where The Scream was kept. It’s quite bizarre that it is just housed in a normal room with no additional security when it had been stolen about 3 times in the past. It was a surprise just to come across it in one of the side rooms. I only realised it must be there because so many people were sitting looking at it.

After a small stop for lunch, I went to the Ibsen museum. I had heard of Ibsen before and I could name a few of his works but after visiting the museum, which is on the site of where he last lived, I will make a conserted effort to read some of the things he has written. It seems like a man who was ahead of his time, writing about women’s role in society, for example. Some of the details of his private life are not so pleasant but that doesn’t stop his plays from being good.

There was just enough time to look around the Akershus Castle and to go to the Opera House where I was treated to an incredible sunset over the city (by now, the weather was improving and I even saw some blue sky). It is possible to climb up to the roof of the Opera House and the view from the top is something to behold.

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Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Norway. The weather was the major disappointment. It meant the weekend was more of a damp than I was hoping but I made the most of it.

Next weekend I am back in the UK to go to the Grand National for the first time. The weather can’t be as bad as the weekend in Norway, can it?

 

A question of Time

26 Mar

Everyone seems to complain about the day when the clocks go forward. One hour less sleep is not a prospect that people look forward to. I am no different. I regularly experience an hour gained or lost when I fly to the UK. For some reason, I find it a lot harder to adjust to one hour than I do when I fly to America, for example, where the time difference is a lot bigger. Perhaps one of the reasons is because you would think that an hour less would make less of an impact than a 6 hour difference. This, I think, is just false hope.

The hardest thing about the large time differences and jet lag is that your body is hungry when it shouldn’t be in the new place that you have arrived in. I did read that the best way to combat this is to fast for 24 hours after you arrive so that your body clock is reset. But who has the patience and the will power to do that?

This method can definitely not be used for a one hour time difference. You just end up having a bit of an early or a late dinner instead. I wasn’t sure if there was a time difference between Switzerland and Norway or not. Through the power of Google I can confirm that there is none. It seems strange that a country so far away has no time difference with here but the UK does. Even more surprising was when I went to South Africa. I expected a horrendous time lag but it’s the same time zone as here in Switzerland. I know that time zones don’t work on how far away one place is away from another but I can fly from here to the southernmost part of Africa and the time is exactly the same.

When I fly to Thailand, the flight leaves early evening and lands in the morning so if I get a good night’s sleep on the plane, then I should (and I really am keeping my fingers crossed) have no problem with the time difference and I will be ready to start exploring straight away.

The question that I always hear, and I have also heard it today, is do the clocks go forward as well in Switzerland? The answer is definitely yes. This is a question I am constantly having to explain to family members. The time difference is always one hour and not two hours in front (when the clock go back in October) or the same time (because the UK has caught up). It’s worrying that after almost 5 years of being in Switzerland that I have to answer the same question twice a year.

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Technology makes the clock changes a little easier for us these days, with devices automatically updating to the correct time. I remember a time when I was at school when someone missed the start of a hockey match because they didn’t realise that the clocks had gone forward. The automatic updates from technology does not prevent the panic that preceeds after waking on the morning of the clocks going forward. I woke up and checked my Fitbit and wondered if it had already been updated. I looked at the clock on the bedside table and the time was the same. I had to get up to check the only “old-fashioned-analog clock” in the kitchen to discover that both the Fitbit and the alarm clock in the bedroom were already updated. It turns out that the alarm clock is also Wifi enabled so it had changed itself.

One good thing about the clocks changing is that there is one less hour in the day. So this makes me feel justified that I haven’t been so productive and my to-do list is the same length as it was yesterday. I will get back to completing it tomorrow when no one will be stealing an hour from me…

Curling into the weekend

19 Mar

On Friday evening I went to try curling for the first time. I am not sure if this make me sound really middle class or really Swiss. Possibly it is a subtle mixture of both.

During the Sochi Olympics in 2014, I created an unhealthy obsession for curling. At every opportunity I was sitting down to watch the progress of the GB team, even though I was not sure of the rules. Even now, after playing the game for the evening, I am still not sure of all of the rules. I became so addicted to the Olympics because the GB team did so well and, not being a nation known for winter sports, that I worked from home for a few days so that I could watch the matches, especially as it got nearer to the medal matches.

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Like every sport on TV, the professionals make it look a lot easier than it actually is. I was also surprised with how small the playing pitch is. On the TV it looks like the playing strip goes on and on forever. In reality it is not that long at all.

We were given what I can only describe as a flip-flop to put over our left shoe. The flip-flop was flat on the bottom so this was the foot that you have to use to glide over the ice. Already this evening was turning out to be a lot less glamourous than watching the GB team win medals.

The instructions were given in Swiss German, just to make things even more difficult for me. I always think that I manage to pick up the main information in Swiss German. This evening taught me the hard way that this was not necessarily true. Apparently when you step on the ice, you should always step onto the ice first with the foot without the flip-flop because if you do it the other way round you have no grip on the ice and it is more likely that you will do a Bambi and fall on your backside. This was something that I was very keen to avoid.

We practiced “throwing” the stones for a while which I found difficult. I am a bit unsure on ice anyway and it wasn’t always easy to keep your balance when balancing on one foot that is completely on the floor and other is scrapping along the floor as you slide or at least try to.

You would think that the stone would easily glide across the surface of the ice but the stones are 20kg and if you try to move them without some sort of kinetic energy behind them (getting technical here) then you have no chance to move them. It almost seems as if the stone is stuck to the ice with glue.

The main problem was that it is hard to gauge just how much force is the right amount of force. Most people had the problem that they applied too much speed and the stone just flew off the end. I had the opposite problem – I never seemed to get enough speed on the bloody thing, which meant my teammates had to do a lot of ice-brushing to try to get the stone into play. Nevertheless it was good fun, even though I was on the losing team.

After a hard game, I was ready for dinner. A nice healthy salad, fondue and a not-so-healthy creme schnitte was waiting for us. Overall a great evening and I am already looking forward to the Winter Olympics to watch how the professionals do it.