Tag Archives: news

Back to reality

7 Apr

Sorry for the recent radio silence. This week I have been pushed into the deep end and I am fully immersed in the world of work and life back at home. This week has been business as usual: I’m back in German lessons twice a week, I skipped the writing club this week to meet up with some friends and, suddenly, it is the weekend again.

My first day in work I was absolutely dreading. For the record, a six week break is not a good preparation for starting another job. On the train into work, I was thinking about all the things that I would be missing out on doing at home: reading, drinking tea, having a nap and watching Judge Rinder in the afternoon. But it wasn’t long before these thoughts were a distant memory and I had Excel spreadsheets back on my mind.

The bad thing about working in Finance (and there are a lot to choose from so it is a tough decision to make) is that the beginning of the month is the busiest time. It is also the time when you normally start your job. I have had so much information thrown at me that, by the end of the day, my head has been spinning.

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It’s always interesting to see how things are versus what you were actually told in the interview. Interestingly, this is where our travels in South America have been very useful – nothing shocks me anymore. It is clear that this job will keep me busy and I will not be able to say that I am bored at any point. The best thing is that I know that I can make a contribution in this job, in a way that I wasn’t able to in my last job. I think it will be rewarding and hectic at the same time.

I have enjoyed being in the centre of the city and being able to go out for lunchtime or going for a walk along the river, when the weather has been good. It’s also nice that the company is a lot smaller and there are mini-perks, like fresh fruit is delivered twice a week to the office and tea and coffee is free. It is a different feel to the company but one which reminds me of the first big company that I worked for.

It’s now the weekend and I am taking time to recover from getting back to work. I was beginning to think that next week would be easier because I have already adjusted to working life, until I realised that this week was only a four day week. Oh well, perhaps next week will be even worse. Who knows? For now, I will enjoy the weekend. I hope your weekend is as relaxing as I am hoping mine will be!

Moving on…

14 Feb

Today was my last day in my current job. I handed in my resignation just before New Year, after I had accepted a job offer from another company. At the time, I was worried I had made the wrong choice: now I am just itching to get started at the new place.

I know, however, that the grass isn’t always greener. Of course, when you are looking for a new job, it is because you are not happy in your current one. When ever anyone describes a new job or a new company, it instantly sounds amazing and so much better than what you are currently doing. That is not very often the case though.

There is always a honeymoon period for anything that is new. In a new job it takes you six to nine months to get used to the new commute, the people and to get your head around the tasks that you need to understand and get completed. After this time, everything becomes a bit more routine. I work in finance after all, so there isn’t much room to be so creative. You spend a lot of time doing the same tasks over and over again every month. That is the nature of the beast.

Like a marriage, the longer you can prolong the honeymoon period, the longer the job will last. I have a feeling that this new job could go the distance. Without boring you too much, I will be joining a very young organisation, where there needs to be a lot of new systems implemented and old systems made to be more efficient. It sounds right up my street and this is something that I can really see myself enjoying.

This is highly dependent on, however, my expectation and if they are in line with the truth. Interviews are funny things because the organisation is trying to sell themselves to the candidates and vice versa. Of course, you don’t tell them something undesirable. If everyone in the department has quit because the coffee machine is broken, they won’t tell you this in the interview. Even so, I do have a good feeling about this new challenge. And if the coffee machine is broken, I will just drink tea, like I normally do. Problem Solved!

My new office is not far away from my old office so I can still keep in touch with colleagues and meet them for lunch once in a while.

For once in my life, I will not be hopping from one job to the next. I have my South America trip first before settling down to life in the Real World.

They say that a change is as good as a rest. I will be having a rest and then a change. I might be ready for world domination by August…

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Testing times

10 Feb

On the first Wednesday of February each year, the sirens are tested across Switzerland. Even though the testing is publicised in the newspaper, radio and television to remind people that it is just a test, I had completely forgotten this week until the piercing sounds rang out at about lunchtime. The sirens last for about one minute and sounds about as apocolyptic as it gets. I have no idea what tourists think when suddenly all of the sirens begin.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like to be alive in the blitz and to hear these sirens again and again, day after day. I also find it about surprising that a country that hasn’t been to war in over 500 years feels the need to have a general alert signal but we have nothing like this back in England. I guess we would have to just rely on social media and the BBC to tell us if a state of emergency had been declared.

In the current political climate, it is easy to see why such practices still take place. Virtually every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is check the news to make the rest of the world hasn’t been destroyed by one of our world leaders accidentally pressing a button that they shouldn’t have.

When my friend came to stay last weekend, she was surprised that we had a nuclear bunker built into the house. The entire population of Switzerland can be accomodated in nuclear bunkers with a reinforced steel door, if the need arises. This might seem paranoid but people in the UK were still building nuclear bunkers into the 1980s. The bunkers are also checked periodically as well. Inside they have a built-in radio so that messages can be relaid about what it happening and when it is safe to leave the bunker.

Our nuclear bunker is actually what we use as a basement now. So, if we did have to go down there and shelter, we would be sharing the space with ski equipment, bikes, recycling that needs to be taken to the recycling centre and a nice collection of wine. I remain hopeful that these things are like travel insurance: you have it just in case but you never have to use it. Let’s hope it stays that way.

#40Before 40, Challenge #21: Part 2

27 Nov

So, I left you on a cliffhanger yesterday. I was half way through my 21st challenge of my #40Before40. If you missed it, you can read it here.

We are now half way through the challenge and about to watch the 13th episode. I am feeling quite awake and, even though we are not as chatty as we were in the beginning, I think the challenge is going well.

Hour 13:

Show: The bad guys are after Teri and Kim but in true idiotic, women-fleeing-from-the-baddies fashion, they are lost and things are getting tense. Jack manages to save them just in time. Meanwhile it is becoming clear that David Palmer might have some anger management issues.

Us: I’m feeling awake and, although I have seen the series before, I can’t remember what is going to happen next. We have sort of agreed that perhaps the series could be a lot shorter but then it wouldn’t be called 24, would it? I am looking forward to the vegan spicy chili that I have made after the next episode.

Hour 14:

Show: Jack is under house arrest, David Palmer is being blackmailed and the FBI has been infiltrated at hospital security… all in the space of an hour! The Serbian connection once again is mentioned. Everyone seems to have Jack’s intentions completely wrong, apart from Tony.

Us: Stefan’s eyes are heavily than my shopping bags when I say that I am just nipping to the shops for a “few things”. The boys want to sleep but I have a feeling if I sleep that I won’t wake up. They decide to take a power nap so I clear up some plates and dishes from dinner but I am scared about waking them up.

Hour 15:

Show: Palmer confront Jack’s and they realise that they have a connection from an operation in Kosovo that Jack served in and Palmer instructed. During a debriefing, Teri guesses that Nina has had an affair with Jack and she also finds out that she is pregnant.

Us: Stefan seems to be struggling. Mark is on the other end of the sofa and is usually quiet. I am wide awake.

Hour 16:

Show: A terrorist suspect has become the boyfriend of one of the Senator’s staff members, in order to get information about the Senator’s schedule. The bad guys have made it into the safe house where Teri and Kim are staying. They manage to get away just in time but then have a bad car accident, where Teri has lost her memory and it looks like Kim is dead.

Us: We go for a quick walk (it’s now 1am). We are now two thirds of the way through!

Hour 17:

Show: There is an operation to plant a tracker on the terror suspect but the emotionally fragile “girlfriend” messes it up and stabs the suspect instead because she knows that he has only been seeing her to get information. Jack has found out that Teri knows that he had an affair with Nina.

Us: The walk really woke me up. But I need some sugar. And caffine. We take desparate steps. We open the Red Bull.

Hour 18:

Show: It turns out that Teri has also possibly having an affair. The Senator’s wife has destoryed some crucial evidence that will prove her son’s innocent but Palmer has tricked her and he still has the original tape. Kim is now being held hostage at a drug dealers house. I have no idea how she manages to get herself into these situations.

Us: Man down! Stefan is bolt upright but fast asleep. They say never leave a good man behind but both Mark and myself leave him to sleep. I am starting to feel tired now.

Hour 19:

Show: Some files about the Kosovo operation have been found and they reveal an address. Jack goes to investigate. The drug deal that Kim is a witness to is actually a raid and she gets arrested. No one knows where she is.

Us: I decided to join the boys in a power nap. And I am feeling a lot brighter. I think it probably is true that power naps are good for concentration and focus. I might start power napping every hour at work.

Hour 20:

Show: Palmer has decided to come clean about the accusations brought against his son beause he thinks that the voters will understand. Jack is now at the address from the previous episode. It is a prison facility and they expecting the transfer of a highly secret prisoner. The prisoner is the Serbian terrorist who he thought he killed 2 years earlier.

Us: We seem to be doing ok, and only have 4 hours left to go. Stefan is annoyed about the way his countrymen are portrayed on TV. I get annoyed when all British people in television programmes have terrible teeth and sound like they have plums in their mouth, so I guess he has the right to be.

Hour 21:

Show: There is an explosion at the prison as the terrorists are attempting to free the prisoner. Jack releases the prisoner when he is backed into a corner and is taken as a hostage himself. He is in deep shit now. Kim gets herself into more trouble; she is honestly a liability.

Us: We have a group power nap of 17 minutes before the next episode needs to be started.

Hour 22:

Show: Kim is kidnapped again. If she wasn’t it in, I am sure that the programme would be called 6. She just can’t lay low for 5 minutes. Palmer has won the vote. Jack is being traded for the main bad guy’s son, who was the terrorist, who got stabbed a number of hours ago. There is some very inappropriate back massages being given by Palmer’s speech writer, Pattie.

Us: We are feeling a lot happier as the end is in sight. I wonder when the sun will come up because it is still pitched black outside.

Hour 23:

Show: In a twist, the terrorists want to shoot Palmer because the son of the terrorist has now died. Palmer dismisses Pattie because he knows that she has been told by his wife to be a honey trap. There is an explosion at the hotel and Palmer is presumed to be dead. Kim manages to escape (how many times is this now??) and Nina is a rat. She has been talking (not very good) Serbian to the terrorists. She was the mole all along.

Us: I am begin to nod off but I stand up and walk around to keep myself awake. We are powering to the finish.

Hour 24:

Show: Palmer’s wife is bad news and a huge snake in the grass and I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her. Jack kills the main terrorist after Nina lied about him killing Kim. Teri is kidnapped by Nina after she began to get suspicious. Jack and Nina have a face off but Teri has already been left for dead by Nina.

Us: We have done it! I’m not quite as jubulant than I thought I would be but that is mainly because I want to try to go to sleep.

And there you have it. The first challenge completed! Just 39 to go!

A huge thank you to Stefan and Mark, who also stuck with me and helped the night to be more enjoyable than I thought it would be. I am still not convinced that they thought that the series was as good as I think it is but I could listen to Kiefer Sutherland’s voice all day long, so perhaps I am biased.

I am sure that you will read about them helping me with some of my other challenges as well but hopefully those challenges won’t mean that we have to lose too much sleep.

Sleep time

18 Oct

This week BBC published an article about a school in Hampton, who have given alarm clocks to students, so that they don’t have to use the alarm clock on their phones. The school argues that this is a distraction to pupils while they are trying to get to sleep and during the night. I can’t work out if the article has a bit of a unimpressed tone; a “why do they have to interfere with everything?” sort of tone.

I would personally love it, if someone took my phone off me at night. It is completely distracting and I have noticed over the past few months that I am sleeping less and less. Not because I am going to bed later and later, but because I go to bed and use my phone.

First I check Twitter, then Facebook, then Twitter again, because in the 5 minutes that I have been checking Facebook, I have probably missed something of vital importance and my life will never be the same if I don’t catch up. The cycle continues with other apps until I look at the clock and realise it is already 11pm.

Of course, I do have an alarm clock. I bought it a few months ago because I had already noticed that my sleep pattern was gradually getting worse and worse. The thing is that the beeping noise is irritating first thing in the morning (which, incidentally, I know is the point) but I can set my iPhone so that I am woken up by a Take That song.

What would you rather wake you up a noise that completely grates on you or Gary Barlow’s voice? Ok, I know some of you are thinking there is no difference, but there definitely is. A massive difference, in fact. Don’t get me started on how amazing Take That sing live!

The question got be thinking about how much we think that technology has improved our lives, but no matter how much we think our lives have improved, there is always a negative lurching in the background.

As a child, I would often listen to music on my Walkman in bed before sleeping. After four songs, the battery was flat, so it had no impact on sleep. Now I can listen to songs for as long as I can stay awake, by having the phone on charge the whole time.

Maybe my New Year’s Resolution for next year should be to ban the phone from the bedroom and focus on sleep quality. If I do, can someone let’s me know what’s been happening on Twitter while I’ve been sleeping?

You can read the full article that I read here.

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Five years

27 Sep

Five years ago, I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket (still the only one-way ticket I have ever purchased) and one suitcase, ready to begin a new adventure in Switzerland.

It doesn’t seem like five years ago, and I never would have believed that I would still be here five years down the line and be enjoying living here.¬†For at least the first six to nine months, I was convinced that I had made the wrong decision and I was wondering how difficult it would be to move all my things back. I spent a lot of lonely nights (and they were also dark and miserable because of the time of year) not really knowing what to do with myself.

After the first 12 months, I was more settled and learning the language definitely helped. Although at the time, it seems like I was spending a lot of time learning things like “Do you sell salt?” which aren’t so helpful in every day life. I also had a very bad habit in the beginning of never asking for anything in a shop, because I was far too embarrassed. If I needed salt and it wasn’t on the shelf where I thought it should be, I simply did without it. Luckily, I always managed to find the ice cream.

The time of being anxious that I had made the wrong decision is far behind me now. There are still things that annoy me about living in another country. Everyone thinking that you come from London when you say you are English is a particular bugbear of mine; as is the lack of fish and chips and the over abundance of paprika crisps. I still hold out hope that smokey bacon flavour crisps will be introduced here but that hope is fading steadily.

I appreciate that Switzerland is not a country that is for everyone’s taste. I know a lot of people who would struggle to keep up with the punctuality of this country and all of the rules that a well-behaved expat must abide by. For me, this part of Swiss culture has not been so hard to adapt to. I think I have had good timekeeping drummed into me from an early age. To the extent that if someone is two minutes late and doesn’t offer an apology, they are immediately struck off the Christmas card list. No second chances here.

After being here for five years, I have now successfully applied for my C permit. This means that I have the same rights of a Swiss citizen, apart from I can’t have a passport or vote. As the country seems to be running quite fine without my inputs, that’s fine by me.

A change for me will be that I no longer have to pay tax out of my wages, but I have to make a tax declaration once a year. I guess I have been here for so long that the tax authorities trust me that I won’t skip the country without paying it. It should be interesting filling in that huge form for the first time. I will definitely need a dictionary on hand when I come to complete it, as well as a calculator.

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The Good, The Fake and The Ridiculous

23 Sep

We live in a world where we are surrounded by news. It’s virtually impossible to stay away from current affairs. There was a time when our only source of news was news bulletins in the morning, lunchtime and in the evening. Now, news is available 24/7. There is no getting away from know what is happening in the world with smartphones, tablets and the internet.

In my view news comes in three many forms: The Good, The Fake and The Ridiculous. Good news is something that, hopefully, we are all familiar with. Fake news is a relatively new phenomenon, in which news stories with questionable reliability quickly spread over the internet and social media sources. It can be hard to spot these fake news stories and lots of people take them at face values. This can be very dangerous ground, especially during election times where the general population can be more susceptible to believing things that they want to read.

By far my favourite type of news is the ridiculous news; the news that seems like it has to be made up because there is no way that could happen in real life but actually turns out to be true. This type of news has me howling with laughter.

I have spotted two examples of this type of news this week. One of them involved a family calling in the RSPCA, an organisation who protect animals within in UK, because they thought that a rare type of lizard had nested under a bed in their house. Terrified at the prospect of an unusual beast taking refuge in their home, they called to ask for it to be removed. The RSPCA were baffled. Approaching the lizard very carefully, they soon realised that it was, in fact, a dirty sock.

I cannot imagine how embarrassing it would be to be the person who made the phone call only to discover that they had called about a dirty sock. You can read the full report here. If you look at the photo, I don’t think it could have possibly looked like a lizard under the bed. How many red and white striped lizards have you seen in your life? And what is the likelihood that a lizard would survive in the milder climates in the UK.

This did remind me though of the type of embarrassment that we all must have endured on occasions when we are convinced we have lost something, only to find that it was in the first place that we looked. I regularly do this with my bank card. I turn the flat upside down because I have already looked in my handbag, my coat, my trouser pocket and every other logical place. Just when I am ready to call the bank to report it stolen, I look “one last time” in my coat and there it is in the pocket. It’s almost as if someone has placed it there while I was searching the flat madly because it definitely wasn’t there when I looked 20 minutes ago. Sure, this situation is embarrassing but not as embarrassing as calling a third party to remove dirty washing rather than a potentially dangerous reptile.

The second story I read this week was about a group of tourists who were rescued from a forest. Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? Where exactly were they? In the Amazon jungle? Some remote part of Africa? No, they were in a rhododendron forest in Killarney, Ireland. I’m not an expert on gardening and flowers but I don’t think that rhododendrons grow all that big. Apparently the group became disoriented and a helicopter and boat rescued them. I am glad that they weren’t somewhere more treacherous, like a butterfly house. You can read the story here, if you don’t believe me.

I guess this type of ridiculous news puts life into perspective. Reports always seem to be about bad things happening in the world. Wthout these amusing stories to lighten the load, would modern life seem too horrible to bear? Deep down I think that they strike a chord because we could imagine these things happening to us or, at least, someone that we know because we all know one person who would find themselves lost in a mass of rhododendrons.