Tag Archives: reflections

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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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.

The results are in…

6 Dec

Four weeks ago, I was sitting nervously in an exam room trying my best to prove that I could pass the C2 German exam. After being really sick the week before, I was just glad to be able to make it to the exam room and take the test.

Today I got the results. There is good and bad news. The good news is that the modules that I passed I got good marks in. The bad news is that the module that I didn’t pass I was only short one mark. One measly mark. Personally I think that they should have rounded up the total so that I could pass.

I knew that this module was hard because the examiner had also commented to us that she wouldn’t have been able to answer all of the questions correctly. I was expecting not to do so well in this and I also thought that I might have to resit it.

So resitting this is exactly what I am going to do. If I can only just fail when the questions are hard, I am confidence that I will pass with flying colours when the questions are a bit easier. I think that they vary how hard the modules are so I am banking on the resit being much easier than the original exam.

Of course, I don’t have to resit but it would be nice to get the full certificate and, more importantly, the first thing to do on my #40Before40 list is to pass the C2 German exam. It is annoying that I didn’t manage to get every module passed in one time but that’s life.

Fingers crossed for the end of January when I will be back in an exam room once again.

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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

Full recovery

23 Oct

After almost six months, one MRI scan and too many physiotherapy sessions to count, my knee is finally healed. What started off as an innocuous trip which affected my knee when I was out running in March has taken a lot of time and effort to put it right.

I don’t want to sound like I am complaining (but I probably will sound like I am) but it does feel strange to have be able to walk and run and not have any pain in my right knee. It is scary how quickly you get used to pain and how it becomes a part of your life on a daily basis.

Perhaps part of my long recovery was my fault. I should have gone straight to a doctor or a medical professional when my knee started hurting. Instead I “rested” for a while and then carried on. In future, I will just go straight to a doctor. The longer recovery time is not worth it.

I found the whole of the summer to be completely frustrating. The weather has been great and I had the target of getting myself fit again this year. But that just hasn’t been possible. It’s been a pain (literally and metaphorically) not to be able to be exercise as much as I wanted to. And then there was the heart-sinking moment, when the doctor told me it was time to have an MRI and then operations were talked about. I can’t imagine being on crutches and going through an even tougher rehabilitation process.

Now it is autumn (and now I am going to sound like I am complaining again…) and the weather is starting to turn colder and I know that my time is limited for runs and bike rides outside. It seems to be one frustration after another. I am almost 90% sure that I have decided to buy a season swimming ticket so I can improve my fitness over the winter and strengthen my knee even more without putting strain on it.

I was hoping to complete an ultra marathon in 2019 but I think that will have to be put back to 2020 now. I don’t want to push myself too far and injure myself again. The cycle of frustration needs to stop!

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Things I’ve learnt in September

1 Oct

As it is already October 1st, I am a bit late with this post but it did take me a while to come up with five things that I have learnt in September. However, here are five interesting things that I learnt last month.

1. There are only two dates in a year when you can set off fireworks in Switzerland without a permit.

It’s hardly surprising that pryotechnics, like lots of other activities in Switzerland, are regulated. It hadn’t occured to me before some mentioned it the other day. Perhaps this is a reason why people really do go crazy on 1st August and 31st December here. It sometimes feels like being in the middle of a war with the amount of fireworks being set off on these days but I guess people are just getting their money’s worth and saving on some paperwork.

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2. Son always grow to be taller than their mothers.

Obviously this is only valid when the son doesn’t have a genetic growth disorder or something similar and when the son has reached his maximum height and isn’t still growing. I am convinced that this is true. I have visually gone through virtually all of the men that I know and they are taller than their mothers. I am so obsessed by this that I am tempted to ask men when I first meet them, if they are taller then their mother just to gain some more evidence to support this theory. If you know of anyone who doesn’t fit this theory, please let me know!

3. It is possible to make a cake without any dairy products at all.

I have been dabbling with veganism recently. I found a recipe for a cake. This recipe doesn’t have any dairy products in it and didn’t have any vegan-friendly dairy substitutes. It was made with baking soda and fizzy water. I was expecting it to taste awful but actually it was great and didn’t last long.

4. There is more than one type of pumpkin.

I visited a pumpkin farm last week and I was surprised by how many varietiesĀ of pumpkin there are. I didn’t know that butternut squash was classed as a pumpkin. There were even some pumpkins there that looked like if you put it in water you would be able to recreate that grainy black and white photo of the Loch Ness Monster. I don’t know what time of year that photo was taken but if it was during pumpkin season then I would say that this was a good explanation for the hoax. Anyway, I wasn’t brave enough to buy a pumpkin that resembled a mythical, Scottish monster, so I bought a regular Halloween pumpkin and I am looking forward to cooking and eating it soon.

5. I’ve taken the summer for granted… again.

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The nights are already dark and the weather is getting colder and the list of things that I wanted to go this summer (mainly hiking and outdoor activities that I won’t be able to do when the snow finally comes). I always have a good intentions of having picnics, relaxing back the lake and swimming in the lake. I have only been swimming in the lake once this year, which is pretty pathetic by anyone’s standards. However, it was a glorious evening when I did go swimming so perhaps quality not quantity is the best way to look at it. It’s now too late to do anything about my summer to-do list… apart from roll over the things that I wanted to do this year to my Summer 2019 list.