Tag Archives: observations

Things I learnt in May

31 May

Here are some surprising things that I have learnt over the last month.

1. It is possible to have too many bank holidays in one month. This May we had 3 bank holidays: May Day, Ascension Day and late May Bank Holiday. I have nothing against bank holidays but I also realised that after May we have one bank holiday (1st August for the Switzerland National Day) and then none until Christmas. Can they be spread out a bit more please? The other thing is that two of them were in the middle of the week so you have to work the day before and the day after. I have said it before and I will say it again: it would be better to move the day to the beginning or the end of the week so that people could enjoy a long weekend.

2. I have missed being at home. This month was the first time that I had been back in the UK in 2018 and the first time I have personally seen family and friends. What was unusual and a welcomed surprise was that the weather was nothing short of glorious.

3. Did you know that there is a difference between a shrimp and a prawn. I thought that the words could be used interchangeably but apparently that is not correct. While both have five pairs of legs, a prawn has claws on three of the five pairs of legs and a shrimp only has two. Who knew?

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4. I have a higher than average reading speed. Just by chance I came across a speed reading test on the internet. It turns out that I have a reading speed of 430 words per minute with a reading comprehension of 100%. Ironically in May I have lost a bit of my reading momentum because of other projects getting in the way but I am hoping that I will be able to get back on track in June and be able to sit with my head in a book more often.

5. Be kind to your knees. I have been struggling with a knee problem for sometime and I have now been referred to a knee specialist. Luckily it looks like rest and physiotherapy is helping and nothing as drastic as surgery is needed. But still look after your knees because if they weren’t there, you would miss them. A lot.

6. I am a librocubicularist. It sounds like a really strange star sign but it actually means a person who reads in bed. I love reading and I love reading in bed. Even though sometime I do fall asleep with a book in bed. I guess there really is be a name for everything.

I’m not sure how it is the end of May. Time seems to be racing away with itself at the moment, which has to be a sure sign that I am getting old. Whatever you have been up to this May, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

My first week as a Vegan

22 Apr

Despite what most people have been telling me surviving the first week wasn’t so difficult and I am feeling surprisingly good. I was anticipating feeling lethargic and having headaches but so far the side effects that I have felt haven’t been that bad at all.

I was initially thinking that I would blog everything that I have eaten this week to prove that I haven’t been starving myself but I thought that might be a bit boring. Instead I will be blogging about what I have found easy or difficult this week.

So, here is my run down of how my week was:

Breakfast

Since I came back from South America, I have been mainly having fruit/veggie smoothies any way so breakfasts haven’t been a huge change for me. I also had porridge one day made with rice milk – I can’t face porridge made with water – and added some raspberries on top because I normally have a drizzle of honey over the top.

Planning

As it was a bank holiday on Monday, I used the time to set myself up for the week and plan exactly what I would eat. As my boyfriend was away on military service, I knew that the days when I was back home late after German class that I didn’t want to start cooking late and it would be better to have something already prepared. I made some roasted red pepper soup with chili so that this could be warmed up when I got back. I also made some vegan quiches, which were easy to make and very tasty. I met my friend, Mark, for lunch on Tuesday and he sampled them as well, so I have an independent witness.

Eating Out

My new team at work is a bit more sociable than at my previous job and we go for a team lunch every Friday. I was quick to get a suggestion in so that I knew that I would be able to eat something. As the item that I chose wasn’t labelled as vegan, I asked if there were any sauces or dressings on the salad and the waiter was happy to tell me that there was no diary products (cream, milk, yogurt) in it.

Freebies

One of the things I like about commuting in the spring and summer is that there are always freebies handed out at the main train station. This week there were two freebies – neither of which I could actually try. I brought them home with me as gifts for my boyfriend when he came back for the weekend. One of them was Rivella. A pop drink which is made from a milk by-product. I knew that this was off-limited and, for me, it is almost as bad as not being able to eat cheese! The second was an Espresso shot. It was a good job that I check the ingredients before because there was actually milk added. I’m not Italian but even I know that you don’t put milk into Espresso. So no freebies for me this week.

Other People

Other people irritate me most of the time but this week, especially at the beginning, have really irritated me. It seems like everywhere I looked there was someone eating a bratwurst, a McDonald’s or a milkshake. All of which are completely off-limits and have made me obsess a bit over food and the things that I am denying myself. The thing that really took the biscuit (which I also can’t eat!) was when I found out that Friday in the office is bacon butty day. The place where they get them from also has black pudding as well as egg, bacon and sausages. The smell was intense and lingered for most of the morning. But I stayed strong and resisted temptation.

There you have it. One week down and many more to go! #40Before40

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!

The demise of the humble postcard

17 Mar

On our travels in South America, I’ve been slightly shocked at the demise of the humble postcard and the Post service in general.

In Bolivia, we were keen to send a few postcards back home but, no matter how hard we tried, we weren’t able to find any at all in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. In fairness, these two cities are definitely not tourist destinations in the true sense of the word and we hardly saw any other tourists. So perhaps it wasn’t so surprising.

In La Paz we found postcards and stamps. Hooray! My general rule is that if you find a shop that doesn’t sell stamps to accompany the postcards then don’t buy them. You’ll end up forgetting to find a post office and end up carrying them with you for the whole time and then bringing them home with you. I also used the sneaky trick of asking the hotel to post them for us rather than look for a post box (and I have no idea what colour they are in South America, so it would take me ages to find one).

In Uyuni we found more postcards but no stamps. As I said before, my rule is if you can’t buy both together, don’t buy at all! But I was overruled. We found the post office but it was “closed for a week for a public holiday”. That seemed slightly suspicious to me as no one could tell us what public holiday it was and everything else seemed to be open.

We still had the postcards in Oruro. We found the post office but two days previously it had gone into administration!

We still had the postcards in Iquique, Chile. We found a post office that was open! So we now had Bolivian postcards with a Chilean stamp on. That wasn’t part of the plan and some people at home are going to be a bit confused if they study their postcard in detail.

We thought it would be good to buy some postcards of Chile at the post office because they had some on display. But it turned out these were for display only and they had none to sell us. In the rest of Iquique, we didn’t find any other postcards and now we have sort of stopped looking.

It is perhaps no wonder that people are sending less and less postcards because the stress of finding a stamp to send it home means that you need to plan another holiday for all the time you have spent looking for a post office.

I wonder how long it will be until postcards are no longer printed. I hope they continue for a long time to come. There is something quite lovely about receiving a note from someone you know who is in a far away land and marvelling over the pictures on the front and trying to decipher handwriting. This is a holiday tradition that I would hate to see no longer with us.

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.

40 Before 40: Challenge #17

2 Feb

I am officially 8.5% of the way through the seventeenth challenge on my 40 Before 40 list. My 17th challenge is to write a diary every day for a year. 31 days of the year have already been and gone so I can be very accurate with how much of this challenge I have completed.

The reason I decided to add this challenge to my list was because I have tried several times to write a diary for a whole year and I have always failed after a few weeks. I’m not sure why I have managed to fail so often but this time I am determined to complete the challenge. Of course, if I fail to complete the challenge again in 2018, I still have a few more years to try to complete it.

Recently I have been wondering why people write diaries at all. Famous diarists, like Anne Frank and Samuel Pepys, would never had known that their daily musings on every day life would be still being read today and the insights that they would be able to give to us into historic events.

I have no doubt that what I sit down and write each time before I go to bed will possibly never be read by a wider audience and probably not even by myself. Personally, it had more to do with the act of sitting down at the end of the day to reflect on what I have achieved and what I have found difficult about the day. I have found, even at this early stage, that it offers time to sit quietly after a day which might have been very busy or stressful. This is something that modern life doesn’t often allow us to have.

I was hoping that it would also help to clean out my thoughts before I go to bed and, therefore, help me in my New Year’s Resolution to get more and better quality sleep. Unfortunately, I haven’t found this helps all that much. People often advise that writing something down that you are struggling with during the day is a good way for you to get these thoughts out of your head. I find the opposite is true. After writing things down, I find that I want to think more about these things and try to solve them if possible.

I will persevere though. It takes 66 days to form a new habit. So I still have a number of days to go until this has become a habit. It does help that I have set a recurring alarm on my phone so that I remember to do it every day and the diary lives on the bedside table. There is no way that I have been able to forget to make my diary entry for the day. Every habit needs a bit of encouraging and I hope that my sneaky tricks to make sure that I write every day will get me closer to ticking off another challenge from my list.

My very colourful diary

My very colourful diary

Travel preparations

13 Jan

As you may or may not know, I love to travel. Since I first set off on a solo trip to Peru in 2011, I haven’t stopped exploring. In my case, it is certainly true when people say that travelling is a bug that you catch. I enjoying seeing other parts of the world and seeing how other people live. As well as trying different types of food, of course.

Soon I will be heading off on another adventure. This one will be longer than I have ever done before. It will be 35 days, in fact, and we will be visiting five different countries in South America. We have already booked all of the flights, buses, boats and hotels.

I find preparing for the travel almost as exciting as the travelling itself. I can spend hours pouring over books, the Internet and asking people for suggestions and recommendations. It’s so much fun to thinking that in a few weeks you will be doing X, Y or Z, or even all three!

One part of travelling that I am not such a fan of is the packing. For a beach holiday, a weekend away or going back home, I can cope. Just throw some things in a suitcase and off you go. It’s only for a couple of weeks or days so there is not a lot of planning needed.

For five weeks on the road, spending only a few days in each place, it is a bit more difficult. I have found in a lot of my recent trips that I tend to panic just before I am about to leave the house and end up throwing things into the bag because I am convinced that I might need a heavy-duty rain jacket in South Africa in summer or I should definitely pack that exfoliating face pack from the bathroom because that would really be useful while camping in the wild in Botswana. Incidentally, I have stopped taking makeup with me on holidays where the weather is hot because I realised it is a waste of time to think that I will feel the need to apply makeup when I am basically melting from the heat. I very rarely wear make-up at home so it doesn’t really make that much difference to me.

I always make a list of things to take and I try to stick to it but it doesn’t always work. As we will be on the move every few days, it makes sense to pack as light as possible. I have been having a personal struggle about whether to take my electric tooth brush or not. On the one hand, it does mean that I have to take yet another charging cable with me (along with phone charger, battery pack for my camera, activity tracker, Kindle etc) but I think that it is the type of luxury that I don’t think that I can go without for five weeks. Plus oral hygiene, as dentists will tell you, is not a part-time hobby so I am almost 100% decided that it will be coming with me.

I read once that for these longer trips, you should pack everything once and then take everything out of the suitcase and take half of the clothes and double the amount of money. This is probably very good advice. There have been more than a few times when I have got back home from a trip to find at least three articles of clothing stuffed in the bottom of my bag that I haven’t used and that I forgot I had even packed.

However, and let’s face it, if I had double the amount of money available, I would be going for double the amount of time. Perhaps only the advice about the number of clothes applies to me.

I will attempt to be very strict with my packing, as I have been with my travel planning, but good intentions and all that. I still have about five weeks to agonise about what and what not to take. Do you see now why this is the part that I dislike the most?

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