Tag Archives: Thoughts

Hockey, Hiking and Homework

16 Oct

This weekend my life seemed to be dominated by the letter H.

On Friday evening, I went to hockey training for the Swiss senior hockey national team for the first time. As I have been living here for more than 5 years, I am now eligible to play for the national team.

The training itself was great. I know most of the players anyway – which isn’t hard bearing in mind how few field hockey players there are in Switzerland. The goal was to enter a tournament next years but there is some debate about if we will have enough players to enter. I hope we do. I quite fancy playing hockey in Spain for 10 days.

On Saturday, still tired from hockey the night before, I went hiking with a work colleague. Uetliberg is Zurich’s very own mountain. It’s about 800m, which in Switzerland is more like a bump in the road than a mountain. We walked up a very steep path, which starts near our office to the top.

When we started walking, it was so cloudy and misty that I was convinced that we wouldn’t be able to see anything from the top and our efforts to climb the mountain would not be rewarded.

I shouldn’t have worried. This was the view from the top:

Just beautiful and in the middle of October as well! The hike took us about 2.5 hours and the lunch of pulled pork and crusty bread that my friend had prepared for us at her house was the perfect way to refuel.

In the evening, I spent some time doing some ‘homework’. I spent a few hours working on some writing projects that I have been working on and made some good progress.

I really should have done some German homework but we have half term this week so I won’t be going to class this week on Tuesday and Thursday evening. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I will miss the lessons the following week because I will be in Singapore and then at the Basel indoor tennis quarter finals. Both were booked well in advance of me enrolling for my classes.

I actually think it will be good to have a bit of an extended break from lessons. I hope it means that when I will return I will have a new sense of purpose and renewed motivation.

It was already Sunday and time for a hockey match against Basel. It was an early start to get to the pitch for 9.30am. Normally games are after lunchtime. I woke up at the same time that I wake up for work. So much for a lie in.

The station was pretty spooky. I was the only one there and the fog made it feel like Victorian London. I was half expecting Jack the Ripper to make an appearance.

The day turned out to be really warm, far to warm to play hockey. I much prefer playing sport in the rain, rather than 20 plus degrees.

I normally write the match report for the team; it’s one of the reasons that I restarted my blog about a year ago. One of the girl, after reading the report, said that I should be a writer or a journalist. The dream from my childhood might be inching closer…

40 Before 40: Challenge #10

14 Oct

After the Cardiff Half Marathon, I was surprised when I realised I had actually completed Challenge #10 of my 40 Before 40 list (‘Beat at least one of my running PBs for 10k, 10 miles, half marathon or marathon’). It was definitely not my intention to do that!

Somehow, I managed to beat my 10 mile (16km) personal best by a whole 9 seconds. Doesn’t sound so impressive, does it? If a professional runner takes 9 seconds off their time, it is a big deal. It doesn’t really work the same with amateurs, like me, who don’t have a great time to begin with.

Because it wasn’t my intention to aim to beat my best on this occasion, I have decided to say that this challenge is complete, because I have done it, but the tick is only marked in pencil. I know that I can do a lot better than this. However, if after 4.5 years when we are getting to the end of the challenge and I haven’t managed to do this in a more convincing manner, I will change the pencil mark to indelible ink.

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Since the Half Marathon, life has been a bit hectic. I haven’t been on any longer runs since then. I have decided to try and improve my times of some shorter running distances and then over time to increase the distance, while still trying to keep the faster pace. In addition to that, I will be focusing on eating healthier and losing some weight.

I have started off modestly with the running, by starting with 3km. I will try to get my time down to around 16 to 17 minutes and, once I have achieved that, try to run for 5km at the same pace. Let’s see how that goes. It may or may not work as I plan it to, but it is worth a try. This also means that I can focus a bit on core strength exercises which I have been too lazy to do over the past year. These exercises can be a bit boring and it is easy to overlook how important they are but they definitely help to improve fitness and performance.

Having said that, because the weather is still nice, I have planned to go for an 11km run on Monday evening after work. I know that 11km seems like a very specific amount. There is good reason for that.

While I was training for the Half, I had to scout out suitable routes. One of the routes is a nice route along the side of the golf course, along some farm land and past a field where there is a stable with horses and donkeys. Just past that field there is a bench, where I would sit for a rest when I had only just started my training. According to my running app, this bench is exactly 5.5km from my door. So, there and back makes 11km.

For some reason, 11km seems like so much more than 10km. That means that on Monday evening, I might have earned myself a well-deserved piece of chocolate.

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.

 

New vs old banking trends

14 Sep

A bank in Switzerland has recently launched a new way for children under the age of 12 to save money. They have launched a digital piggy bank. The children put the coins into the piggy bank and the value is automatically added up and the children can see the total in an app.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. It is good to get children into the habit of saving from an early age. I always had a piggy bank when I was younger. It was always a tough choice of whether to spend my pocket money straight away or to spend it on sweets at the village post office. My piggy bank, which was transparent, sat next to my brother’s on a shelf in the kitchen. Whenever I was thinking about going to buy sweets I would have a sneeky peek through the clear perspex box and see roughly how much money he had and to make sure he hadn’t got more than me. That and that alone decided if I bought sweets that week.

The best thing about having a piggy bank as a kid was being able to empty all the money out and count it myself, whenever I wanted to. Sometimes I felt rich. I had almost £6! This was back in the 80s/early 90s when I could get a 10p mix from the post office or really splash the cash and get a quarter of midget gems for 45p. For my younger readers, a quarter is 113 grams.

I even had a slip of paper where I would note down how much I had saved each week. Yes, even from an early age I was showing indications of my future career as a finance professional. It was exciting to see how much more money I need to save in order to buy a new CD or my favourite magazine.

Young people are criticised a lot when it comes to money. Older generations complain that they buy things on credit and don’t understand the real value of money. I am inclined to think that having a digital piggy bank will not only take away that excitement of counting your own money but also convert money into a virtual rather than a real concept for the next generation.

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We have probably all been in the situation when the credit card bill comes that we are horrified at how much is owing. I have on more than one occasion been convinced that I have been a victim of fraud. I have definitely not used my credit card that much this month. I am an innocent victim of crime. Then after reading the itemised bill, you realise that you can’t blame a fraudster – you have spent that much but because you weren’t physically handing over money to a cashier, you have lost all sense of spending and now you have to eat bread and water for a month in order to pay the bill.

Of course, we are moving towards a money-less culture, in which all transactions are conducted virtually. Apple watches have been around for a while and more and more apps and gadgets are coming on the market to make purchasing goods easier.

Maybe I am just stuck in my ways and I’m showing my age but I don’t think that children should be denied the opportunity to count their pocket money themselves and have that feeling that this week they are richer than they were last week. In fact, I still occasionally do this now.

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.

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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.

 

40 Before 40: Part II

9 Sep

Here is the second part of my #40Before40 challenge. This is a short explanation of why items 21 to 40 are on my list.

21. Watch a series of 24 in 24 hours – the idea for this is simple. Watch a complete series of 24 in 24 hours. For those of you who don’t know, Kiefer Sutherland is Jack Bauer, a maverick working for the FBI. Each season elapses over 24 hours. So the season are 24 episode long. I will watch them back to back, as if watching them in real time. I need to get friends to help me with this or I will not stay awake.

22. Learn how to wolf whistle – my mum can do this no problem but I have never been able to no matter how hard I have tried. I think it would be fun to be able to do this spontaneously

23. Try snowboarding – I am not very good at skiing so let’s try snowboarding. I believe it is a lot harder to snowboard in the beginning, but it has to be more pleasurable than skiing.

24. Take an overnight sleeper train – I have taken an overnight bus from Latvia to Lithuania before and got about 10 minutes sleep. I have a romantic idea that it would be very comfortable and luxurious. I am sure that the reality is anything but.

25. Cook every single recipe from one cookbook – about a year ago, I watched a film called Julie and Julia which is a true story based on a woman’s quest to cook everything from the book of the famous chef, Julia Child. Julia Powell cooked 564 recipes from the book in 364 days. And this was classical French cooking. An unbelieveable achievement! I haven’t yet decided on which cookbook to cook from. I may have underestimated the challenge of this. I was looking at cookbooks in a book shop yesterday and cookbooks are really long. By long, I mean easily more than 100 receipes. If anyone has a good suggestion, please let me know.

26. Learn how to fold 40 origami designs – this could be another underestimation. I thought this would take me an afternoon to complete. I watch a Youtube video of a simple folding design and my mind was blown. I thought it would be like thought paper game from the school playground where you choose a colour and then you chose a number and then your friend reads out what is underneath the flap and it’s something like “You stink”. I have no idea what they are called but you know what I mean, right? Anyway, not as easy to make as those.

27. Read 40 novels in German – this is linked to Number 1. Reading is a great way to passively learn a language and I love reading anyway, although it is not always easy in German when I have to look up words to understand the text completely.

28. Take a wine degustation course – as one get older, one should appreciate wines more. I think that is what people say. I have no idea about wines apart from the colours are different and some are sweeter than others.

29. Read The 40 Books Every Woman Should Read – I am a big reader. I realised that I don’t read as many books from female authors as I do male authors. Then I found this list of 40 books that women should read. It seemed like Fate.

30. Solve a Rubik cube – I remember my brother and I peeling off the stickers of a Rubik cube in an attempt to solve it. Of course, then it became completely impossible to solve. I will try this challenge without the wonders of the internet and Youtube. I’m going off grid!

31. Take up a new sport – I like sport. I like trying new things. I haven’t yet worked out what new sport I would like to try but I am sure that I will find the right one to have a go at.

32. Catch, cook and eat a fish – it might surprise you that I love watching the show River Monster, where the presenter goes off to all sorts of destination looking to catch a powerful fresh water fish. Of course, he puts it back afterwards. I would like to catch something that it enough for dinner. Incidentally, I won’t be doing this challenge at the same time that I am going vegan for 3 months.

33. Make an item of clothing to wear – again I am not sure what exactly but I would like to make something to wear. I have already ruled out knitting a scarf because that is a bit too easy.

34. Stop biting my nails – I mainly bite my nails when I am nervous, bored or excited. I hate the way they look but at the same time I can also go for long periods of time for them to grow. I just need to break the habit effectively. Easier said than done.

35. Read 40 non-fiction books – I mainly read crime/thriller fiction books but I have so many non-fiction books that I bought with the good intention of reading.

36. Fly long haul business class – I have never flown business class but I am always so jealous of when I get on or off a long haul flight and you see the seat in business class. I want people to be jealous of me for a change and see if it does make a difference if you sit in economy or business class. I think it could be a marketing con.

37. Have a haircut at least 4 times a year – strange as it sounds, I hate having my haircut. I don’t like very much about the experience at all. I really don’t like that they try to talk to you and be friends with you. As a result, I only go about twice a year. Women should go to the hairdresser every 6 weeks. After I go after 6 months, my hair is not in great condition. Once a quarter seems to me to be a good compromise for the sake of my hair.

38. Be able to touch my toes – I have never been able to do this. I have heard that it is just a question of flexibility and if you regularly stretch it should be able to do it. I remain skeptical. I will post a photo as evidence.

39. Downsize, get rid of anything I don’t need or want by selling, giving away or donating – I say and try to do this all the time but I never end up fully managing it. This means that a lot of books that I have in the basement will have to go as well as toiletries and cosmetics that I have bought and used once and clothes.

40. Start and maintain my own travel website – I had an idea for a travel website/blog a while back but I have yet to do anything about it. One of the issues is the amount of posts and articles that need to be written in order to generate interest. At the moment this remains an idea but soon I am hoping that this will become a reality.

To read the items 1 to 20, click here.

So, it’s time to stop explain and start doing! Wish me luck.

#40Before40

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Another year older

5 Sep

Yesterday I celebrated by 35th birthday. I’m not really a big birthday celebratory but I was persuaded in the evening to have Raclette and a birthday cake. A choice I could never regret.

It got me thinking about the cultural differences between UK and Switzerland on the subject of celebrating aging.

In the UK a work colleague would normally arrange a cake for your day because it’s your birthday and why should you go to the effort of baking/buying a cake and hauling it into the office? In Switzerland it is very much expected that you bring something in for everyone.

I have a bit of luck on this front because 5 people from my department had birthdays over the weekend or yesterday. I know from prior years that this normally results in far too many croissants, cakes, pastries and other sweet things. I didn’t bring anything in, not because I am tight, but because I will bake something over the weekend to bring in next week when everyone’s sugar levels have reverted back to normal.

The cake thing I can deal with but not so much the hand-shaking, kissing and congratulating that comes along with it. All of these things are ok between close friends and family but I find it a bit unsettling between work colleagues.

So many people have congratulated me. But what are they actually congratulating me for? I have achieved nothing, apart from not dying and getting a day older. And I am fairly sure that they can’t possibly be congratulating me for evading death for the 35th consecutive year.

At home people just wish you a nice day and tell you not to get too drunk (because that’s the only pastime of the British). I find both of these sentiments to be much more preferable than wondering if my work colleague will shake my hand, kiss me three times or hug me.

I do sound like I’m complaining but I’m. It really. It’s these small cultural differences than I found so interesting and, sometimes, funny. Will I ever get used to these small things? Will I always find it awkward and a touch embarrassing? Only time will tell. But I will say one thing: it’s far better to be congratulated and feeling awkward than for your birthday to be forgotten.