Tag Archives: summer

School’s Out for Summer

22 Jun

It’s now the end of June and my latest German course has finished. Finally! I have been going to evening classes twice a week for the past 15 weeks. And I really feel like a need a break for a few months.

I can’t honestly say that I don’t really feel like I have progressed all that much. My friend, Mark, couldn’t have put it better when he said (about learning German) that the more he learns, the more he realises he doesn’t know. This is exactly how I feel. It’s as if, for every thing I learn, something that I learnt last week, gets squeezed out of my brain. There isn’t enough space in my brain.

Whoever it was who said that “Ignorance is bliss” might have been on to something. The more I know, the less I feel I know and this has an impact on my self-confidence and my motivation to carry on learning at all!

I am hoping to take (and pass) the next and final German exam early in 2019. Before you ask, yes this is one of the items on my 40 Before 40 list of challenges. I have decided that if this is to be a realistic possibility at all, I need to carry on with doing quite a lot of German grammar exercise during the summer so that I don’t forget things completely. The idea is that by the time the next course starts in the middle of September that I will know the grammar and I have to concentrate only on learning some vocabulary and techniques for passing the exam.

I’ve decided to try to make a “revision timetable” for over the summer so that I can stay on track. However, I know that this doesn’t always work; it rarely worked in my school days so that chances of it working in the summer, when I feel like I need a break, are also slim. But I will give it ago anyway. I might have to tape the revision plan onto the fridge so that I am reminded of it every time I go to get something to eat.

laptop-3087585_1920.jpg

Zurich Sechseläuten

16 Apr

Today the city of Zürich celebrates the special and old tradition of Sechseläuten, and as a result, I am celebrating only having to spend a half day in the office!

The Sechseläuten tradition might seem a little bit odd, especially if you wander down to just outside the Opera House at 6pm today and don’t realise what is happening. A snowman will be sitting proudly on top of a huge wood pile. But the snowman will not be smiling for long. At 6pm sharp – this is Switzerland after all – the wood is lit and the crowds will anxiously wait for the head of the snowman, which is packed full of firecrackers, to explode. It is said that the time it takes between the fire being lit and the head exploding will be an indication of how good the summer will be. The faster the time, the better.

The snowman (which in Swiss German is called the Böögg) represents winter and the ritual burning is a way to “get rid” of the winter and get ready for spring.

tradition-721543__340

After the actual event, locals make use of the embers of the fire and grill sausages and meat before heading home. But only if the weather is good!

While working in Switzerland, I have only been to see the event live in 2016. My first job in Switzerland was outside of the city, so I had to work the full day. 2016 was a disastrous year. It was the first year for the new Bööggmeister (the man who builds the snowman), after the previous one had retired. It took the head 43 minutes and 34 seconds to explode, which was the longest time it has taken to explode on record. The weather was wet and it had rained the night before. When it became clear that the wood was not catching fire, the organisers began to pour petrol on it; otherwise, I have the feeling that we would still be waiting for the head to explode now.

For this reason, and even though I am free to go and watch the event in person, I will be staying away. I already have the feeling that I am a bit of a jinx because of the long time that was recorded in 2016. I will be watching from the safety of my sofa as the event will be covered live on Swiss TV.

Keep your fingers crossed that head explodes quickly and the summer will be good!

Summer regrets

12 Sep

It hasn’t escaped my notice that the nights have been slowly drawing in, the sun is half asleep when my alarm goes off and there is a slight chill in the air. My fans are now back in the basement as I have resigned myself to the fact that the nights of it being too warm to sleep are over for another year.

Autumn is on its way. I like autumn. I am more accustomed to the milder weather and it means that I don’t have to make up a bad excuse to stay inside and curl up with a good book and shut out the world.

I never appreciated the summer as much as I should. Every year I promise myself that I will enjoy the summer months: late night drinks, swimming in the lake and watching the sun going down. Every summer I fail. This summer I don’t think I have been up late enough to see a sunset and I have been swimming once in the lake (and that wasn’t even in Zurich).

The thing that I will miss most about this year’s summer is my vegetable garden. It sounds daft but I have enjoyed tending to the garden this year and I have had so many vegetables from it that I have hardly had to buy any from the shops. The weather was perfect for vegetable growing. Hot, dry weather followed by rain and downpours meant that the plants grew, at times, far quicker than I could eat them. And that is saying something.

I have had tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, basil, radishes, onions and kohlrabi. I don’t know what a kohlrabi is in English – online translation tools translate it as kohlrabi. Very helpful. It’s not like a turnip or swede but similar. You can eat it cooked or raw.

The overwhelming success was the cucumbers. At one point I was eating a whole cucumber, which was on average about 25cm, a day for lunch and I still couldn’t eat all of them. When my mum visited, she took back some for relatives, otherwise they would have gone to waste.

I daren’t take my eyes off the cucumber plant because every time I did, it seemed that two more had suddenly grown. I was beginning to be anxious about wasting them or about them growing too big so that I wouldn’t be able to get them through the patio doors to the kitchen.

img_7318.jpg

When all is said and done, cucumbers are not so versatile. Your options are basically salad or salad. I once saw a recipe for cucumber soup. I saw sense and decided not to attempt that.

It felt good to be living at least a portion of my life in a sustainable manner. I think that generally people waste a lot more food than they need to. I was lucky that I could go out to the balcony and sometimes make a salad from the ingredients there. I picked things as and when I needed them. No wastage at all.

I have also dried some basil or, at least, tried to so that I can use it in the winter in soups and stews. So part of the summer will remain with me a little longer.

I am also hoping that in the next few weeks that I will get a few more gifts from the garden. I have planted carrots and leeks. Let’s see my sustainable life continues into the autumnal months.

 

Too hot to sleep

25 Jun

At the risk of sounding completely British, which I know that I do from time to time, the weather at the moment is just too hot. After this spell of hot weather surely no one in their right mind can deny the existence of climate change. 35 degrees in June. What is the rest of the summer going to be like? Weather like this means that I can’t sleep and me without sleep is not good news for anyone.

I have tried all different strategies. The first, a classic in anyone’s book, was to sleep with the window open. A grand idea until a mosquito woke me up while it was buzzing around my ear at 2 in the morning. Annoyed I trudge out of the bedroom and go to find the insect repellent. That will do the trick. Only it didn’t. I woke up with 5 bites on my right legs and three on my left wrist. I don’t know what was wrong with the rest of my body that the menace decided not to eat the rest of me.

So I can’t sleep with the window open anymore. I now have fans in the bedroom which I have found make no real difference either. They just tend to circulate the warm air around. Plus, they are loud and keep me awake at night.

Two nights ago in utter frustration, I convinced myself that the living room was actually cooler than the bedroom. (This was after a short period of about 3 minutes when I was on the balcony with my bed sheet in the lovely cool evening air. I suddenly realised that if they can bite me 8 times by coming through the window, advertising myself as night-time-alfresco-all-you-can-eat buffet to the insect was probably not the best idea I had even had.) Of course, the living room was no more cool than the bedroom. The heat is affecting my brain and impairing my ability to make sound judgments. I am not sure what my excuse is for the rest of the year.

thermometer-693852__340Being on holiday when the weather is so hot is no problem. In fact, it is the reason why we book holidays. When we have to cope with wearing business dress and going into the office, it is just not fair. I can’t sleep, think straight and I can’t run outside!

This morning was the first time that I have been able to go running outside because the weather had cooled this morning. I got the trainers on quick and got outside before the mercury was pushing towards 30 degrees again, as it was by the early afternoon.

Of course, there are advantages to weather, such as a BBQ every night, not having to remember to pick up the umbrella before leaving the house in the morning and the washing drying in super quick time. On Friday, it was almost dry before I had even hung it out!

It has just turned nine in the evening here and it is still 25 degrees. I am hoping that the combination of the heat and the run from this morning has tired me out and I will drop off effortlessly tonight but I am not holding out too much hope. It is still too hot to sleep…

Holiday season: Coming Soon!

20 Mar

It is only the middle of March but I’m ready for holiday season to begin. For some reason, this year seems to have been so long already even though it seems to have flown by. It’s a complete contradiction but I think you might know what I mean!

In less than 2 weeks I have a quick trip to Oslo, Norway planned. This will be the last of the Scandinavian countries that I need to visit. I have been to Stockholm and Copenhagen within the last 12 months and I fell in love with them. Although I dream of spending a week or more cruising through the Fjords, I am constrained by time on this occasion but I hope to get a good sense of the atmosphere, culture and food while I’m there. The flights were on offer when I bought them. I saved about 300 Swiss Francs or more on a return trip. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The following weekend I will have a trip back to the UK. It’s a flying visit as usual. I will be going to see the Grand National for the first time. I’m really excited about this. I have been to a few horse races live (once at Happy Valley in Hong Kong as well as some more local races) but nothing as well-known and spectacular as the Grand National. My choice of dress, shoes and hat have already been made! There will, of course, be a little bit of time to see the family and on Monday morning I fly back to work and my job.

A mere 4 days later (I know, I planned this really well), I jet off to Bangkok, where I spend a few night before flying to Vietnam. In Vietnam I join an organised travel group and make my way through Vietnam and Cambodia until I reach Bangkok. After a few more nights there, I head back to reality. I suspect I will land in Zürich with a large bump!

All of these things have been on my bucket list or things to do list for a long time. It will be great to tick them off and how incredible to do them within a few weeks of one another.

Over the years, traveling has become a passion of mine. So has experiencing new things in general. Before a trip, especially the big Asia trip, I start to get into panic-overload as planning for the trip starts to begin in earnest. The worst part of the whole trip is getting from the airport to the hotel. You arrive in a country miles away from where you started, dazed and confused, and you have to suddenly think about how you are getting to your hotel. It’s at that point when you are vulnerable and people (mainly taxi drivers) lie in wait ready to rip off unsuspecting new arrivals. Before I set off, I will have a clear plan as to my onward journey. Once I am at the hotel and my luggage has been dropped off then the holiday can really begin…

frog-897418_960_720.jpg