Tag Archives: observations

May Madness

31 May

The past month has got to be one of the craziest months I have had in a long time. I have had some strange experiences this month. I want to share these experiences with you just to make sure that it was the month that was mad and not me.

Firstly, the weather this month has been nothing short of bonkers. I’m not sure has been the catalyst for the whole month or not. It’s been blazing hot one day followed by torrential rain for 4 days. On Wednesday it even hailed for about 30 minutes. It is the craziest weather I have ever experienced in May since moving to Switzerland.

May was also the month that I went back to work after a period of job hunting. A company had offered me a 6 month contract. It wasn’t really ideal but it was an offer and at the very least I was confident that I would be able to learn something new and see how another company functioned. After the first week, I realised why I hadn’t been offered a full time contract: they are likely to be closing the company by the end of the year. It was a bit of a shock.

I was even more shocked when I received a phone call on the following day from a company that had interviewed me for a job back in March. They had decided to employ a candidate who had applied internally. To say I was gutted not to be offered the job was an understatement. They phoned me because the position was vacant again and was I still interested? I had a interview the following week and an hour after the interview they had offered me the job. How mad is that? Of course, it meant that I had to hand in my notice 3 weeks after I started my new job which I felt bad about but I was so happy that I got the job that I wanted so much.

I also went on a personal development workshop. It was an intense event and lasted 3 days. To say that I was out of my comfort zone was an understatement. I was so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t actually see the edge of it anymore. We were asked to do a lot of exercises with people we didn’t know which was quite intimidating. But I learnt and realised so much about myself. I realised that the reason that I have come to a halt on writing my book has less to do with me not thinking that I don’t have the right talents and skills to complete a book that people will enjoy reading and has more to do with being judged, both professionally (from the point of view of the book being panned) and personally (that my character will be judged as well). I know that this is just my worry manifesting itself in my head to stop me from completing what I want to do. I found it completely liberating and I have made a concrete plan about how to get my book finished plus some other projects that I have been putting off because of worry and anxiety.

I can’t not mention that I managed to hit the dead centre of the target while taking part in a shooting competition this month. I was amazed! My boyfriend, who was by my side to coach me, almost had a heart attack. He was never expecting that to happen. I suspect he was actually slightly jealous.

The final bit of May Madness was my attendance at netball training this month. The netball club ran a competition that every one who attended every training in May would be win a free drink in the pub at the end of the month. Despite an injury to my finger (which I still can’t bend fully and is painful), I managed to claim my cider!

There have been lots of coincidences this month. Luckily they have all been happy coincidences so I have no reason to complain at all. I feel very positive about the next few months. I will soon be starting a new job, plus I will be going home for the first time this year, I am going to Berlin for a netball competition and there will be big celebrations later in June when the shooting club will be celebrating 150 years as a club. I can’t wait!

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40 Before 40: Challenge #39 Downsizing – Part 1

15 May

This is a long post so I have decided to write it over two posts so you don’t end up falling asleep before the end!

This is possibly one of the hardest challenges on the list because a) I have had to be really strict with myself about recycling, selling, donating and throwing away things and b) it’s quite difficult to work out when the challenge is finished.

I watched a programme recently about trying to live a minimalist lifestyle. A couple tried to live for 2 weeks with only 100 things in their apartment. The rest of the things that didn’t make the list were put into storage until the challenge was over. The programme explained that people who have less material possessions are happier because they don’t have to make decisions and so their life is easier and less stressful. After the experiment, the couple did take back some of their items that were in storage but also decided to get rid of some things, like clothing, for example.

The aim of my downsizing hasn’t been to own only a limited number of possession but to get rid of things that I don’t need or want.┬áIt is so easy to accumulate things that you no longer need, no longer want or things that no longer work.

Moving is a good time to sort out things. It’s also normally the time when you realise as you are packing everything into boxes that you own far to much stuff. We moved almost a year ago and this challenge began back then. However, it has taken me until now to be happy that I have genuinely sorted through all of my things thoroughly enough that I can say that I have downsized sufficiently.

Here are some of the areas that I have tackled in my quest to downsize:

Books

Books are my biggest downfall. I have so many books and I keep buying books at a rate faster than I can read them, even though I am a pretty fast reader. I’m not sure if this is due to a deep-rooted fear of running out of reading material and so I want to make sure that I have enough to keep me going.

The first thing I did was clear out my books. I tend to hold onto books even when I have read them so these were the first ones to go. I have made a promise to myself that I will only keep books that I think are incredibly amazing on my bookshelf after I have read them. This is why Bonfire of the Vanities is still standing on my shelf. I took these books to a second-book shop or gave them away to other people. Giving them to other people that I know is 100% better than taking them to the shop because at the shop I tend to have “a bit of a browse” and end up buying at least another two books. The net effect is what I am hoping for but it still means that more books are finding their way into the apartment.

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Next I was very honest with myself and looked through all of the books that I was left with and got rid of the books that I had no interest in reading. These were neither because of a rash purchase that I now regret or a book that had been given to me by someone that I didn’t really want to read. These books also made it to the second-hand shop.

There were also some books that I want to read in the future but just not right now. These books are now stored in the basement in a plastic box ready for when I want to rediscover them.

Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying expert (possibly not her real job title), claimed last year that a person only needs 30 books. I recognised that I had too many books and needed to sort through them and get rid of them but only having 30 is completely ridiculous. For example, do recipe books count towards that? If so, I should only have 24 other books and that is not going to happen. At least I have cut down my number significantly but reducing even further would just cause too much negativity in my life and no one needs that.

Toiletries

I had stacks and stacks of toiletries in the bathroom. So many, in fact, that my boyfriend was shocked when I and half of a large Boots store moved in with him. The weird thing is that I’m not the type of person who spends hours in the bathroom getting ready and taking hours looking after their skin.

The products that I had fit into a few broad categories:

  • Bargain products that I bought because I was saving money but didn’t actually need
  • Gifted products that I thought were too nice to use so they have been stood in the back of the cabinet gathering dust
  • Products that I bought but realised weren’t right for my hair/skin type
  • Products that I have been hanging on to because I want to use them but have never got round to

The easiest thing to do was to first throw away all of the products that were or looked like they were going out of date. I threw away quite a bit of make-up and also some hair products. Then I did the same with products that I discovered weren’t right for me.

I decided it would be best to sort the remaining items into: essential things that I use on a daily or weekly basis; things that I have been keeping for “best” but can use straight away; gifted products that are actually travel-sized and I can take away with me on trips when I only have hand luggage; things that I won’t use at all ,which were then disposed of.

I bought some small boxes so that I can organise everything to make under the bathroom sink look tidier.

This also has the extra benefit that I can see exactly what I have so I don’t buy things and then realise a few weeks later that I didn’t actually need to because I already had a stockpile loitering at the back of the cupboard.

Things that I don’t use or don’t work anymore

I had a collection of things in the basement that didn’t work or I didn’t use anymore. We took the things that didn’t work to the local recycling plant and disposed of them properly. I got rid of things like a stop watch which had stopped working years ago and a couple of mobile phones. We ended up taking a whole car full of things to the recycling/waste disposal place. Here is how full the car was on one of several trips. I must add we did take some things for family while we were there – it wasn’t all from our basement.

Things that I don’t use anymore were trickier to get rid of. I tried to sell as much as possible. I sold some resistance exercise bands that I had only used twice, a pasta machine. some unopened perfume and some other things on a Facebook site. I sold some jewellery on an ebay-type site. I also got some money for my old German textbooks. In the end, it added up to quite a bit of money. It was pain sometime waiting for someone to collect something and then them sending a message to say that they couldn’t make it but it was worth it overall. Of course, there were some things that I wasn’t able to sell for one reason or another so these ended up being disposed of at the recycling centre.

That is the end of Part I! Are you still awake? I hope I haven’t bored you to death. The conclusion of my challenge will be posted later this week. I hope you check back to see what else I manage to organise and tidy!

 

 

Book Challenge by Erin 10.0

23 Jan

As you may know at the end of last year, I discovered an online reading challenge on Facebook. The group is run by Erin (hence, the name). The challenge is very easy. There are 10 different categories and you have to read a book from each category to complete it.

As I have a lot of free time on my hands at the moment, I managed to finish the challenge in 21 days – yes, 10 books in 21 days. I surprised myself. I’ve been motivated by reading 68 books last year and I would like to better it this year if that is possible. Obviously, I have given myself a great start to the year.

Here are the categories and the books that I read for the challenge:

Freebie (any book that is more than 200 pages long) – How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carniege

I decided to read a non-fiction book for this category. I have had this book on my “to read” shelf for a long time. It was an interesting book about human psychology and the basic premise of the book is “be nice”. That’s so of it really. By being agreeable, people will want to spend more time with you or do business with you. It seems logical that people who are easy to get along with will have no problem finding friends. However, I wonder if you did follow all of the advice in this book if you would end up feeling very unsatisfied with life. You would just end up doing what other people want and forfeit a large part of your personality to get along with people. Having said that, I will follow some of the advice that the book gives, especially because some of the examples that were given did ring true to me and I think the advice could help me in some areas.

Book that was turned into a Movie – Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This was a long book (my edition was 884 pages long) but was a great read. Set during the American Civil War, it is essentially a story of love and loss, focused on the main character Scarlett O’Hara. Throughout the book, I was wondering how on earth the story could keep going and going, but there was always a clever plot twist to stir things up again and leave the reader wanting to read on. I haven’t seen the film but I wonder how the whole story can be possibly cut down to the length of a film without losing part of the great story. I’m so glad that I stuck with this book and read it until the end.

Set in Europe – The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

So many people have been talking about this book recently that I thought I just had to read it. At times it was an unpleasant reminder about the horrors of Nazi Germany but there was also a huge sense of hope and love. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who wants to read it by revealing what happened but it is well-written and poignant. I would recommend that you give it a read as well.

A Newberry Award Winner – Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

I read this children’s book in a few hours. It was a lovely story about Wilbur the pig and his friend, Charlotte, who is a very clever spider. This book was popular when I was growing up but I never read it. I was glad that I did. It is a story about relationships and how working together can help improve everyone’s lives. The ending was sad but in a nice way.

A Friend’s Favourite – Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I was a bit sceptical about the book when I first started reading it. It took a while to get my head around the structure of the novel and the reasons for that structure. The book is six stories, spanning different eras woven into one. Each of the stories has a connection to the previous one. The stories were so different, not only in terms of narrative voice but also in the format; one was a diary, one was an interview etc. It showed a vast amount of skills to write with such complexity and authenticity. I enjoyed some of the stories more than others but overall it was a great read.

Written over 100 years ago – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I had no idea that this book was based, at least partly, in Switzerland and that it is nothing like the Frankenstein monster horror story that have come out of Hollywood. It is a poignant story about human interaction and the need to be accepted in society. The figure of “the monster” is a lonely, misunderstood figure, who has had no part in his design or creation, and tries to take revenge on his creator after he refuses to help him find happiness.

Title with 6 Words – The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Another book from the Nazi Germany era. The worst part of this book is seeing the dates that the diary entries were made knowing that the hope of them being free isn’t going to happen. The contrast between the musings of a teenage girl (complaining about classmates etc) and the description of the harsh conditions is mind blowing.

Cardinal direction in the title – East, West by Salman Rushdie

This was a collection of 9 short stories. I really liked how the narrative of each of the stories was so different and the subject matter was so varied. A lot of the stories made me quite reflective about life. I haven’t read any of Rushdie’s book before but I am going to make an effort to do so in the future. This was a good introduction into how well he writes.

Originally in another language – The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende (Spanish)

This was a joy to read. It’s the story of four generations of an eccentric family in Chile and charts the tragedy, hilarity and surreality of their lives in an ever-changing world. One minute I was laughing out loud, the next silent in shock at the events that were unfolding in the story. I would go as far to say that this was one of my favourite books that I have ever read. This was another long read but I doubt it will be long before I am re-reading it once again.

Begins with the letter N – Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Surprisingly, in this book the narrator is a unborn foetus, who is overhearing the destruction of his parents’ marriage and his mother’s subsequent relationship with his uncle. It was fascinating to read – the narrator can’t see everything that happens in the story but tries to infer all the details from his experience and from other senses. As with all McEwan novels, there is a sinister twist to the story and the foetus attempts to interfere with events that are happening around him.

There will now be a bonus round, where I have the opportunity to read another 10 books, but that part of the challenge doesn’t start until 1st February. In the meantime, I will have to find some other books to get stuck into!

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The Start of 2019

10 Jan

It’s been a busy start to the New Year. It’s only the 10th January but I have the feeling that I have done more in the last 10 days than I did in the whole of December. Which is hardly surprising because my main activities last month were eating and drinking.

Although we had a few smatterings of snow in December, the snow is finally coming down. Perhaps my increased productivity is due to this weather. I don’t feel like going outside so I have been busy doing activities indoors.

Here is a list of what I have done in the past 10 days.

  • Stopped eating and drinking as much as I was doing over Christmas in an attempt to lose the weight that I’ve put on;
  • Read 5 books (and I’ve almost finished number 6);
  • Collected and built a wardrobe that I had ordered;
  • Tried some new recipes in the kitchen;
  • Had a haircut;
  • Packed away all of the Christmas decorations and the Christmas tree – and the corner in the living room still looks empty without it;
  • Bought a new TV – our old one decided to give up the ghost on the 5th;
  • Started work for preparations for lauching my own travel website later in the year;
  • Started learning some coding in Excel;
  • Sorted out some clothes and other things to be taken to the recycling centre or to donate;
  • Went swimming for the first time in as long as I can remember;
  • Had a couple of lunch dates with friends;
  • Begun editing a short story that I wrote last year.

Bearing in mind that we were on holiday in Belgium until 3rd January I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.

If the snow keeps falling and I remain inside, I think this month could be the most productive one on record! I hope you’ve also had a good and productive start to 2019.

Short term memory and luck

3 Nov

One week from now (depending on when you are reading this), I will be sitting in an exam hall in Switzerland tearing my hair out while trying to pass my German exam. When I entered the exam, I made the mistake of thinking that I have all the time in the world to study for it. But time goes by so quickly that I don’t feel like I have had time to think let alone study for it between then and now.

I am all to aware that there is not so much time left and I am in that awkward place that everyone finds themselves in just before taking an exam. I feel like there is not a lot more that I can learn in the next week that will mean the difference between a pass or fail and I just want the whole thing to be over. I am sure that there is a language that has a word that describes this feeling but we don’t have an english translation for it. If anyone is aware of such a word then please get in contact with me to let me know what it is.

Perhaps it is a mistake though to have this feeling. When I took an exam about two years ago, I also found myself in this place. I was ready to give up learning until someone convinced me that I would be able to learn a lot in a week. I didn’t really believe her but carried on studying for a week. It turned out in the exam that a few of the words that I had learnt in the last fews days came up in the exam. That ended up being the difference between a pass or fail.

So now maybe I am in another place. I am in a place where I am relying heavily on my short term memory and a big, fat slice of luck landing on my desk in a week. We all need a bit of luck but a last little push to help me over the finish line is probably just as advisable.

Does it matter if I don’t pass this exam? Essentially no. I am doing it to help my chances in the job market but mainly for my own satisfaction and to prove to people that you can learn new things, even languages, when you are over the age of 30. However, I want to finally draw a line under this so that I can move on to learn more things that people advise you not to do when you are over a certain age. Plus I am not sure that I can physically prepare myself for resitting exams in January.

So please think about and pray for my short term memory in this last week of preparations. Failing that, please send me a big, fat slice of luck!img_2870

Things I learnt in August

31 Aug

Another month is almost over and I have been having a think about what interesting things that I have learnt this month.

1. A flying fox and a fruit bat are the same thing. This made my brain hurt when I found this out this week. I ‘m not sure exactly what I thought a flying fox was. I didn’t think that it was a type of bat though. bat-2639114_960_720If you look at this picture though, you can see that it does look a bit like a fox so I can understand where the name now comes from. It’s always confusing when people use different words for the same thing. Like the whole debate about what a small bread roll in English is called. I’m not even going to open that can of worms.

2. According to my knee doctor, my knee is (and I quote) perfect. I don’t want to sound like I am showing off but he did use the word perfect several times when talking about the cartilage, tendons and ligaments in my right knee. He was able to “show” me this because I had an MRI scan for a knee problem that I’ve had a bit of trouble shaking off. So I had the MRI as a precaution to make sure that everything in my knee was still in one piece. It was reasserting to know that after playing so much sport over the years, running a marathon and trying to be a regular runner hasn’t had a negative effect on my joints so far. Which means that I have no fear about training for one of my next challenges – to run an Ultramarathon.

3. I am a turophile. I love eating cheese. I really could sit and eat cheese until I made myself sick and then I would probably carry on eating again. Not being able to eat cheese was the hardest part of my vegan challenge. I looked up the etymology of the word it comes from the Greek word for cheese which is “turos”. Interesting stuff!cheese-1972744__340

4. Patience is a virtue. Recently I have been waiting for news and I have realised that I’m just got good at it. As much as I try to not think about it and distract myself by doing other things, I still end up checking my emails every fifteen minutes. I am not even sure if it is possible to train yourself to be more patient. If someone does know if it is possible, please feel free to get in touch!

5. Classic novels are wasted on youths. In the last month I have read a few classic novels that I have been meaning to read for an age. I have also just started reading Northhanger Abbey by Jane Austen and I will probably read Wuthering Heights next. When I was at school, I hated reading all of these classics. It wasn’t because I had to read them for an exam but I just found them boring. Perhaps it is an age thing but I do enjoying reading these novels now. At school students shouldn’t be forced to read classics but be encouraged to read whatever they find interest.

And that is the 8th month of 2018 finished! I hope you have also learnt some interesting things this month.

On the move…

6 Aug

In the current heatwave that we are having, it’s best to stay indoors and do as little as possible. Unfortunately, it has been virtually impossible for me to do this this week because it has been moving week. This has involved carrying heavy boxes down never-ending flights of stairs for what feels like a lifetime.

I knew that I owned a lot of books but physically carrying each and every one of them down the stairs in this heat has made me realise how impossibly long my to-read list is. The plus side is that if I do manage to read all of these books, I will definitely be able to win a series of Mastermind.

It is a long and boring task but it had to be done. I am now adjusting to life in a much bigger apartment and not knowing that I have unpacked properly and what has been left in a bag that will become the study because I don’t quite know where it “belongs” yet. It could take a while before I settle in completely. Just today, for instance, I got off the bus and immediately started walking in the other apartment and then realised that I don’t live there anymore.

Aside from the arduous task of unpacking and finding a place for our belongings in the new place, we also have to completely clean the old apartment before we hand it back to the landlord. Luckily, we have a few weeks before this needs to be completed. But Swiss apartments are carefully checked for signs of damage before the deposit is released to the former tenant. Cleaning is also not a fun activity to do in this weather (or any weather, in fact) but it looks like next week will be a bit cooler so it can wait until then…

Also a quick thanks to our friend, Mark, who ably assisted us in getting the last few heavy items of furniture out of the old place. He was rewarded with a few cold beers and a steak on the grill. I was more than a little concerned when he said, if he got this for helping us every time we moved, he would help us move next week as well. Thanks but no thanks, Mark. We are definitely staying put!