Saturday, 29 December 2007

Best Christmas Cracker Joke

What does an auctioneer need to know?
Lots!

Ha! My future brother-in-law, who is English, managed to procure some ludicrously expensive Christmas crackers. Apparently Switzies are generally not familiar with them, so it was really lovely to see how long people wore the hats for and how seriously everyone took the jokes.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Far Out

Reto and I went on a sentimental trip down memory lane today (back to Aarau to return all our library books before we zip off to Aus) and while we were there we discovered that the library has turned into a spaceship! It has been being revamped since early November or so, and has just reopened with it's new spacey look. It's all whiteness and windows and wacky lighting (that leaves excellent patterns on the floor) and the seats are like puddles of mercury or something (red ones, but still. Maybe just puddles, actually) and the bookshelves are .. well, they're just bookshelves, but they're round and kinda spacey too. And there's a designated eating type room and I went in there and even though I didn't actually eat anything, if I had it would have been like EATING IN SPACE (minus the zero gravity floating stuff). It was super.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

More Of An Authority Than I Realised

I feel bad about it (it seems vaguely like spying), but as you may recall I have one of those stat counter things on my blog and every now and then I have a squiz at what it's doing. The most interesting thing about it, as far as I can tell, is to see what words people used to find my blog.

Lately, it seems, I am popular with people searching for information on "naked stretching" (two separate searches from different search engines on different days. Interestingly, naked yoga came up in the book I am reading at the moment but that is the extent to which I consider myself an expert on the subject. Or even remotely informed, actually), with people who want to know how to pronounce things (specifically löwe, bräu, gesundheit and philistine) and with someone who looked up "swiss whips lenzberg". Hmm.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Christmas Review

Well, apart from this having been the Worst Christmas Ever for reasons I don't particuarly wish to go into here, it was actually quite an okay Christmas. We ate a bunch (apparently the Switzies choose meat wrapped in pastry at this time of year. My Switzies do, anyway), we drank a bunch, we sat around a bunch, we slept in a bunch. Reto and I got up strangely early one morning and went to church, which was strange*, and then today, a day late, it snowed.

It was all quite nice, but it seems to me that unless we are all sitting around and eating a lot of stone fruit (peaches and cherries, mmm) and peeling prawns and making about 18 types of salad and complaining about the heat, it's just not very Christmassy.




* I come from a non-churchgoing background and didn't know what to expect. Reto was explaining it all to me a bit before the service started, and at the very last second (just as the curtain went up or the dude came out or whatever it is that signifies the start of these things) he said to me "oh, and there might be some hand-shaking at some point". I goggled at him and whispered "hand shaking??", picturing some sort of wacky rural Swiss catholic-shaker crossover cult thing, but as it turned out all he meant was that I might have to shake hands with some people. Which was far less exciting and bloggable than it could have been.

He's So Furry

What a furry little cutie he is with his paunchy bottom and his innocent expression.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Christmas Disagreement

In spite of my total lack of religious knowledge, tonight I had an argument with someone (several people, actually) about the alleged date of Jesus' birth. I don't think I have ever heard anyone suggest it was any time other than the 25th of December, but now apparently the 24th of Dec has been thrown into the ring, and now that I look at Wikipedia I see that any time between October and January, or maybe May or August, is also arguable.

Did anyone else know that this is controversial?



No Snow, But ...

... look what it looks like here! Grimly grey and depressing, yes, but for the last few days there has been relentless frost that never melts and just gets frostier every day. It's really lovely, actually, because it's so much more delicate and interesting-looking than snow.

It also means that it's ridiculously freezing, to the extent that I might not go outside again until it becomes absolutely essential (which really means for a week and a half, which is when I leave for Australia! Hello summer!). I'm pretty sure there's enough food in the house to sustain me..

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Year In Review

Well, that's that practically over, and what to show for it?

2007 was my year of the Grand Romantic Gesture (or GRG as I used to enjoy saying), and I suppose that part worked out quite nicely. I flung away the trappings of my old life in a ridiculously cavalier gesture and rushed off to some loopy country on the other side of the world to live with my pretend boyfriend. And then he proposed to me on the Eiffel Tower and now we spend our time arguing romantically about where we should get married and whose surname (if anyone's) is prettier*.

I read a bunch. And I also kept a list of everything I read, which it is surprisingly interesting to look back on. Sadly I only managed to read one more book from the Angus and Robertson top 100 books list thingy (The Book Thief, which was super), but an extremely impressive two from the Waterstone's list (The Book Thief again, plus The Shipping News, plus I saw Atonement at the movies and The Name of The Rose on DVD and I bought The God of Small Things (but haven't read it yet) and I gave Vernon God Little and Cloud Atlas a good try, so really I feel almost smug).

I failed to be particularly integratey. I do do my laundry at 40 degrees these days**, I enjoy kissing everyone all the time, and I no longer think 7 CHF ($7) is an outrageous price to pay for a newspaper***, but I'm not sure that really cuts the mustard. Happily too much integrating would have been a bit of a waste anyway since we are off to be semi-french next year anyway.

I ate some cheese. I think I had a pretty high rate of cheese consumption before I came here, but this year it has really skyrocketed. Meals composed of almost nothing but cheese don't even cause me to raise an eyebrow any more. My main change has been in my staple cheeses - possibly as a consequence of Reto being Swiss and therefore automatically strangely patriotic about such things, we spend most of our time eating gruyere, whereas in the past I had much more international flavour. Sadly I can find havarti for neither love nor money in this country****.

I embraced (and this is where you should turn away briefly if you have any sort of squeamishness about the wonders of the female body and all its glorious tendencies) relatively environmentally friendly menstrual accessories, in the form of a menstrual cup. I think maybe they talk it up more than it deserves on the website, but I am nonetheless relentlessly enthusiastic in recommending this as a far superior alternative to tampons and so on. Just encourage me a bit and I'll rant all day about menstrual cups. Or at least for 5 minutes or so, because people tend to get a bit awkward after even that long.

I made some shiny new friends. I realise that shiny new friends should really come before my menstrual cup, and in the everyday process of life they definitely do. I realise that they also warrant a longer paragraph, but in the spirit of being a bit paranoid about people's privacy, this is all I am going to say. They're great people and I am glad to have them.

I also maintained some shiny old friendships. There's nothing like moving to the other side of the world and never seeing people any more to separate the chaff from the cream. It becomes quite apparent (as if I didn't know already) who my really great friends are who I am bound to stay in touch with no matter where I live.

I lived in a tiny wee town for the first time in more than a decade and I really enjoyed it. Aarau is charming. It has enough of everything (movies, cafes, general vibrance) to not feel like I was missing out, it is only 20 minutes or so from Zurich and Basel, I could walk absolutely everywhere (which was my favourite feature by far). That being said, I am definitely looking forward to moving somewhere bigger and more exciting next year (and yet still somewhere eminently walking-friendly).

I also embraced total unemployment for the first time in a long time. It took surprisingly little getting used to, and apart from sporadic bursts of boredom I enjoyed it enormously. The worst thing about it was all those people who ask "but what do you do all day?" and then look at you as though you must be the sort of person who finds staring at leaves really really interesting or who can't function in normal society*****. Or perhaps that's just me being paranoid.

So that's 2007 pretty much over, and far more interesting is the question of what next year might hold. Employment? French-speaking? Cat-owning? Marriage? Strange.





* I think the answer is no one's. Well, his certainly isn't and I doubt he would ever agree mine is.
** Because I don't have a choice
*** That's not for any newspaper, but it is the price for the Guardian International, my paper of choice
**** I haven't actually looked very far at all, and I doubt that I would go so far as to pay for it with love.
***** Not that I'm saying I can function in normal society here. It would be easier if I had any idea what people are saying.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Congratulations, You Two!

Congratulations to my cousin and his girlfriend (who I am deliberately not naming because people can be weird about that on blogs), who just got engaged! I seriously doubt that they even know of the existence of this blog, but since I also don't know their non-work email addresses and they are somewhere mysterious in Copenhagen (ie. also unphonable) this is really the best I can do.

I have heard from numerous sources that being engaged and getting married makes you want to harrass other people into joining up too. As far as I can tell this hasn't happened to me (I like my friends. I don't see why I should like them more if they are married) but I do nonetheless feel a certain sense of excitement about the fact that other people are engaged. Possibly because my cousin and his fiancee are in a similar situation to Reto and I (Australians and Crazy Foreigners with visa difficulties!), possibly because I now know how to have conversations about engagement rings and wedding reception venues and so on (only with very little useful advice to give but plenty of powers of complaining and empathising). Possibly I am just filled full of the joy of love and togetherness and all that stuff.

Whatever it is, congratulations! It's great news!

Freezing In Fribourg

Reto and I spent yesterday complaining bitterly in Fribourg. Complaining firstly because it took us two long hours to get there (which I admit is not a long time at all. We had to change trains 5 times, though, which was extremely annoying), then complaining because it was so cold (-6 according to a thermometer we saw, and that was at lunch time), and then complaining because the ground was so icy and slippery (why make pedestrian crossings out of stuff that is treacherous at the first sign of anything inclement?), and then complaining because we ate too much cheese at lunchtime (we had a fondue aux herbes, which was sort of delicious and sort of oppressively herby, and all together too cheesy. We didn't even eat all of it, so we didn't get to really appreciate the yummy burnt bit on the bottom!) and then complaining because it was cold again.

Otherwise, it was actually a really great day. We met up with my friend Olivia, who is always wacky and fun and full of unexpected stories about the strange things she does. We went and looked at flats we might want to live in next year (and, totally unexpectedly, we actually found one that would be sort of perfect! It's big but not too big, cheap but not too cheap, it's got lots of nice big windows, it's in a building with a reasonable laundry system (just do it whenever there's a free machine, none of this relentless signing up for things and being yelled at for the terrible crime of washing outside your allocated time), the kitchen looks functional (and the fridge is only moderately tiny instead of tiny tiny), the view is entertainingly excellent (although we only saw the entertaining part, because the allegedly excellent bit (mountains) was hidden by fog and clouds), and the building is close to everything), we ate lots of cheese and drank lots of coffee and broke it all up with short periods spent walking around in the freezing.

I like Fribourg. I am really looking forward to moving there next year, and although the language thing is a bit on the annoying side (having spent quite some time learning german, it's not really ideal to have to start again from scratch in french) it will at least be good to live in a place where the language I learn is the language they speak (none of this swiss german gobbledegook). Not that learning french really solves many of my problems, since we don't plan on staying in Fribourg (or in french-speaking areas in general, I think) for more than a few years at most, and since none of Reto's rellies speak french at all, but I still think it's a positive move. There's nothing more annoying than every single Swiss person you ever meet saying "No one ever learns swiss german. You'll never learn it, ever. Ever" to make a girl not feel at home. Good riddance miserable germans, I say.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Seeing The Light

This seems to happen here a lot.


It's the sun coming through the clouds, which I realise isn't all that remarkable, but here at HOT you see it allllll the time. Occasionally I feel a bit like I am being forced into thinking I am having a religious experience. At other times it just seems pretty.

My Boyfriend (Fiance) The SmartyPants

Congratulations to Reto, who has just passed the bar exam! No more studying, no more whinging, no more procrastinating, no more unemployment*!









* Unless you count the next 3 months, of course, with regards to unemployment. And there will probably be some wedding-associated whinging and procrastinating, too. Definitely no studying, though!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Today In The News

Switzerland-wise, there is the exciting news that Christoph Blocher is gone from the federal council, and has been replaced by Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf* (or rather will be replaced at the beginning next year, when it all takes effect, apparently).

The federal council is a group of 7 people, representing the 4 main political parties here, and each councillor is sort of like a minister in Australian politics, I suppose, but they do more than just that (read about it here instead. I don't really know what I am talking about) and they take it in turns to be the president (or whatever it's called) for a year each. Normally federal councillors are re-elected forever and ever (until they retire or die**) but during these elections Blocher was beaten by another candidate from his party when a bunch of centre and lefty types banded together to get him out. Blocher, as you might have gathered, is a bit on the hardcore-right side and is unpopular with many people, and is widely associated with the whole black sheep thing earlier in the year.

Widmer-Schlumpf won the election thing yesterday, and then she took until 8am this morning to decide whether she would accept the position or not (time she no doubt spent being harrassed by various factions within her party. Frankly given the fact that being a federal councillor is the pinnacle of Swiss political achievement and practically guaranteed for as long as you care to do it - as long as you aren't too controversial or too much of a trouble-maker - she would have presumably needed some pretty impressive persuasion to decline). She did accept the role, and consequently the SVP announced that they do not recognise Widmer-Schlumpf and the other SVP person in the federal council as representatives of them (ie. sort of kicked them out of the party), which means that the SVP, the party that got most of the vote at the last election***, is essentially unrepresented in the federal council, and so there is bound to be all sorts of infighting and disagreement and probable splitting (?) of various SVP factions.

In other shiny and exciting news, Marcus Einfeld, former Australian Federal court judge, will be off to trial next year for allegedly perjuring himself and perverting the course of justice when he submitted sworn statements saying that it was, among other people, a woman who was dead at the time, and not he himself, who was driving his car when it got a speeding tickets or ran red lights at various points over the last few years. Ha, I say. And I also say, what's the point in saying it was other people? Yes, you can avoid the fines (a few hundred bucks?) and you can avoid losing the points on your license (it only happened 4 times. Had he lost lots of other points? Was the car going really fast? I don't really remember anything about how many points you have on your license or how quickly you can get them back but it strikes me as reasonably unlikely that he would have lost his license for long, if at all. And what would have been so bad about forcing other people to drive him around for a while? Or taking taxis?), but now maybe he will go to jail for 14 years****. Hah.


* Apparently Schlumpf is the word for "smurf" in german, and, as you would imagine, leads to everyone making boring and predictable jokes about her.
** Wikipedia tells me that 4 federal councillors have been voted out, Blocher now, another dude in 2003 (when Blocher took his place) and two men in the 1800s, so this really is comparable to John Howard and his Bennelong debacle.
*** By which I mean a bigger percentage of the vote than any other party, not an actual majority of the vote. And let's not forget that the proportion of people who actually bother to vote is only half-ish.
**** I believe this is the maximum sentence for everything he is being charged with.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Bob!

Doesn't he look regal? Even with his semi-ludicrous name tag.

Thoughts For The Day

The idea of doing things (like going to work) when it is still dark* strikes me as uncivilised. I got up at 7.30 this morning (unheard of, frankly) and it was pitch black (sort of), snowing and miserable. Reto turned on the TV and we watched all this political brouhaha (voting in Berne leading to the potential chucking out of the most controversial of the federal councillors, which is really very exciting and unheard of, not dissimilar to John Howard losing Bennelong. We won't know what the outcome of it all is until tomorrow, though) and there were all these politicians loitering around and arriving and being interviewed and it was still pitch black (sort of). Shouldn't everyone still be all warm and toasty in bed?

In other news, I was just looking at smh.com.au and I saw the headline "Laws to protect Pope"**. "That's a strange turn for a retired septugenarian", I thought to myself, but as it turns out the truth was much less amusing.






* Obvious exceptions: people whose jobs require them to work at night. Shiftworkers.
** That link takes you to a page that says "Tough laws to protect Pope", which is much less funny, but the shortened version for the home page of the site left out the "tough".

Friday, 7 December 2007

Christmas - Coming Along Nicely

The christmas trees/lights/decorations are up (not ours, but the ones in the streets. Actually, the HOT gets into the Christmas spirit too, so there are actually decorations all over the place), Santa-substitute has come and gone (which involves having fruit put in your shoes if you have been nice, or apparently being kidnapped and possibly thrown in a river if you have been naughty), Christmas markets have begun (well, the local one here started last night and Reto and I had the best of intentions of going but then it started raining so we stayed at home and scoffed mountains of pfeffernusse instead (at least I did. Reto, weirdo that he is, doesn't really like them). Happily the market goes all weekend so we are in no danger of actually missing out on going or of eating lots of roasted chestnuts.

The interesting thing about this Christmas (apart from it being all backwards and northern hemispherey) is the volume of shopping that I don't have to do. Reto's family don't really give Christmas presents to each other, and the vast bulk of my friends and family are all miles away frolicking in the non-freezing weather (and I will see them in Jan, so any Christmas present shopping for them is non-urgent). I only really have Reto to worry about, and now that he has been fandangled into marrying me and he can't make an easy getaway, I'm sure I can give him any old tat and it won't matter. Hurrah!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Aarau's Top Five - Our Window

We had such a nice window in our flat in Aarau. We lived in the tallest building for miles around (10 floors!), so every day you had a nice view over the town, on clear days you could see the castle in Lenzburg (well, not enough to know it was actually a castle, but had you come over I would have pointed it out and told you it was a castle so you wouldn't have been mistaken) and whenever it was foggy you could stand at the window and exclaim about how little you could see. The window was at its best when it was snowing and you could lie on the bed and look out the window, able only to see upwards into the cloudy grey sky and the snowflakes falling towards you, and you could imagine you were living in a snow dome.
Happily the HOT has an excellent view of some mountains (like the Eiger, my favourite of the Swiss mountains. Not only is the Matterhorn a bit too much of a show pony, I don't really like Toblerone and it (the Matterhorn) doesn't have a train track running through it. Incidentally, did you know that Toblerone is apparently doing a fruit and nut version at the moment? And have I mentioned the dark chocolate Lindt balls that are around, too? Only 60%, but a step in the right direction!), and conveniently you can't really see the mountains most of the time (because of all the fog/cloud) which makes it all the more special when you can see them. And they also do a nice line in sunset here, too.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Recycling - Fun For The Whole Family

Something sort of excellent that we have discovered here in our new home is the way in which PET bottles are recycled. You take them to your local supermarket (as we did in Aarau) and put them in this hole in the wall, but the novelty of the recycling method here is that the holes in the wall for the different types of containers are surrounded by paintings of alieny type monster-people, and the recycling holes are the mouths of said people. Anyway, you put your plastic bottle in the monster mouth and then something in there shreds the bottle, making this entertaining mechanical munching sound as though the monster is eating the bottle.

It's not much, but it's what we've got.


UPDATE: I have just been to Migros again and as it turns out the bulk of what I wrote up there is a total lie. The alien-monster-people are actually kids and plastic bottles (not even morphed into hideous bottle children, just normal kids and bottles), and the kids faces aren't painted around the holes to make them into mouths. The shredder thing still exists though, and it's wacky.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Aarau's Top Five - Thai House

Aah Aarau, how I will (do) miss thee.

On Thursday as a reward for all the ridiculous rash-inducing cleaning, we went out for lunch at the Thai House, which has a lunchtime buffet thing for a mere 25 CHF (a snip, all things considered, and a real novelty given the general dearth of Asian food in this country). We scoffed mountains of mysterious curries and stir fries and then I had a really excellent plate of mysterious tropical fruits (some of which I didn't even recognise, which was exciting) and some absolutely excellent banana icecream, and then Reto almost fell asleep in his chair. For some odd reason this was only the second time that I had been to the Thai House, and the first time I had actually eaten there. The other time I went was in February or so when Reto and I decided to have a drink at the bar there, and that occasion definitely makes it onto my list of Top 5 Memorable Aarau Moments.

The bar looks bizarrely colonial, all heavily-stuffed leather couches and dark brown wood and pictures of royalty (Thai royalty, but still). The night we went there the entertainment was a man with a keyboard, a shiny, spangly outfit, a microphone (totally unnecessary given that the entire bar was even smaller than our flat, ie. very very small) and a wide repertoire of cheesy songs that he would sing in an entertaining mixture of english, german and mumble (at one point he made a short and slightly discomfiting speech about how he wanted to dedicate the next song to the queen of Thailand, and he respectfully indicated a portrait on the wall, and then he launched into "Sex Bomb", which was great). Anyway, he was quite the entertainer, and encouraged the clearly awkward audience (about 10 of us, who filled the bar to capacity) to join in, to dance, to request songs and to generally stop being so shy. As it turned out, the drinks Reto and I ordered were more successful at achieving this than the keyboard man was, and not as a consequence of their high alcohol content or anything like that. No, our drinks were entertaining because they posed a significant risk to everyone's safety.

We had ordered liqueur coffees. Not controversial at all, you would imagine, but then the waitress came out with a tray full of bottles and jugs and glasses and things, plonked it all down in front of us and then proceeded to set things on fire all over the place (really only sugary boozy liquid that she was caramelising in some gigantic glasses, but the way she twirled things around made it look like the whole place was ablaze). Everyone stopped looking at the singing man and started looking at our fireball drinks, and the whole thing went on for such a long time and was such a production that we were all totally awestruck and gave her a round of applause when she was finished. It seemed a shame to have to drink them in the end, but drink them we did and by that stage everyone had such a sense of camaraderie that there was much more singing and dancing and chatting and applauding and requesting of songs going on. Aah, the Thai House.

Friday, 30 November 2007

At Home With The Trollops

Well, we've done it. After an arduous morning yesterday spent scrubbing the floor like charwomen from the Olden Days, we had our inspection (all thumbs up, hurray, and welcome back to our bond), we packed our remaining junk into Reto's mother's tiny car, we had a final coffee at Gossip, and we moved to the home of Reto's sister and brother-in-law*. Incidentally, last night was the foggiest night I can ever recall enduring, which made all the driving kind of terrifying. As far as I am aware Reto hasn't driven a car in the better part of a year or so, and I still find the whole right-hand-side-of-the-road thing a bit terrifying, so in combination with being unaccustomed to being in cars at all, my unfamiliarity with the roads and my empathic terror for Reto at having to drive at all, the fact that the fog meant we couldn't really see anything was really the icing on the cake. We didn't have a terrible accident, though, no one was injured, and so I suppose it was a resounding success.

In related news, I can hardly express how excellent it was to not sleep on the air mattress last night. At one point I woke up when I was turning over and was surprised to find that I was lying on a relatively solid surface and wasn't making waves of turbulence with my every movement. Reto turning over didn't threaten to heave me onto the ground, and we didn't both end up smooshed together and basically touching the ground in the middle of the mattress (which tends to happen, because as it turns out the heavier person is like some sort of evil black hole on an air mattress. By which I mean that Reto (surely the heavier person**? Even though I am about 8m taller than him these days, sigh) would tend to make a big dip in the mattress where he was lying on it, and if I made the mistake of coming within a certain distance of him (hard to control when you are asleep) I would roll helplessly into the dip and (hopefully) end up poking him with my elbow or headbutting him in the face).




* For the sake of entertainingly ambiguous and not-at-all-unkind bloggy anonymity, I am going to call our new residence the House Of Trollop (HOT)
** I just found a set of scales in the HOT and have weighed myself for the first time in a good 6 months or so and can definitively say that I win the "not being responsible for the air mattress vortex" competition. Yay me.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Pickles: Useful and Nutritious

Because we are on the brink of leaving our flat, and because this is Switzerland, land of hard, hard water and consequent calc deposits, this is what our bath tap currently looks like:

I mangled a container, Reto filled it with pickle-bottle vinegar* and then he sticky-taped it to the tap. Apparently that's what he always does when he finds himself needing to clean the calc off taps. Weird.


UPDATE: Our flat is more shiny than you could possibly believe. Thanks mainly to a no doubt heavily toxic cleaning product, the excellently named but poorly pronounced "Cillit Bang" (pronounced with a soft C, as in "sill-it"). And I have dishpan hands (aka scrubbing-the-bathroom-walls-because-of-the-stoopid-calc hands). Sigh.





* Incidentally, I love pickles. I never realised until I came to this country, but all year I have been eating them like a fiend. We bought a tiny jar to last us this final week in Aarau and already it's empty

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Happy Birthday Ange!

Happy birthday Ange!
Just add a "0" and the cat has the age right!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Ode To An Empty Flat

Aah, Stuff
You light up my life
You pass my time
And make me comfy.
You help me to eat nutritionally balanced meals
And you stop me from murdering my boyfriend in a sleep-deprived rage.

You make me happy, and yet ..
.. when I turn off the lights* I can hardly tell you're not there.




* No small feat in this the land of the BYO light fittings. Which, in case you don't know, means that usually apartments come without any lights in them, and you have to get your own lights and then either hire an electrician or risk death by electrocution to install them. Happily our apartment is adequately fitted out with lights that we didn't provide and will not be taking with us.

Votin'

.. and of course, although I'm sure you're all already aware of it (and incidentally I even read about it in Heute (my favourite of those free public transport-affiliated newspapers) yesterday, and they even managed to get John Howard's name mostly right this time!) today is votin' day in Australia. And because we are so behind the times here (even with our crappy, crappy, crappy new bed I still didn't manage to get up early) it seems that it's practically all over bar the shouting, that John Harvard is out and that a brave new world of being kinda lefty has emerged. The only thing left to see is whether John Howard (aka Harvard) has lost his seat, and for those of you who don't understand the implications of that, it would be remarkable indeed.

Oh, and happy 200th post, me.

Camping

Well, we've done it. In a relatively heroic effort we moved all our stuff out of our apartment yesterday (thanks to the extremely impressive carrying-and-packing efforts of Reto's dad and sister. I find it slightly disturbing that all our worldly goods (apart from the stuff in Australia and the bits and pieces left here, and of course all Reto's other stuff that he has left scattered across the country) fits into two carloads) and so now we are left sitting on the floor with little other than a laptop and a huge pile of books for company (actually we also kept the TV but that doesn't really fit well with the picture I want to paint here).

(before the move)



As it turns out, living in a bare flat is kind of awful. We have this horrible cheap air mattress that seems to deflate itself quite quickly, and every time Reto turned over during the night the mattress would wobble and heave and I would have to cling desperately to something in order not to be flung to the ground (only about 3cm away, but still not a pleasant prospect because it's all cold and hard and dusty). Everything echoes a lot (which was really made clear last night when we were trying to inflate the air mattress at 11pm or so and thanks to the internal air pump thing it was making this horrible sound like a dog being kicked or violent sexual assault or something equally horrific. As we were moving all our furniture out yesterday morning the woman who lives next door saw us and came over to say what wonderful (= quiet) neighbours we had been, but I am sure then when she heard all that racket (and how could she have failed to?) she would have taken it all back. And possibly called the police). It's also really, really cold in here now (much colder than it was when we had furniture), and so all of me hurts this morning thanks to all the heavy lifting yesterday, and having to sleep all curled up (in an effort to retain warmth) on a thinning mattress on a hard floor last night.

I think it's going to be a very long week (we move out properly on Thursday).

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Smoky Cats

We went and saw The Cat Empire in Zurich last night, which was good but not as great as I was hoping (sadly. That's what comes of getting your hopes up, though, I suppose). Last time I saw them was at a festival, I think*, and the stage was huge and the crowd was all pretty mellow and there was plenty of space and they did all this ridiculous dancing in a line thing on stage and I had no expectations at all (which were wildly exceeded, if that is possible). This time it was in a very crowded venue, and we had to queue for about 800 years to check all our assorted winter woolies into the cloakroom (it has been completely freezing here for the last few days. Although not as freezing as where Reto's brother lives, which is expecting an overnight temperature of -19C tonight, apparently. -19!), and as a consequence of all the excessive queueing we actually missed the first song (Hello Hello!). As it turned out that was pretty much the only song that they actually played "straight", ie. without endless amounts of instrumental stuff that isn't on the CD version of the songs. I'm all for movies being not exactly the same as the books on which they are based, and I am all for musicians having the chance to do their thing and not be limited to what everybody already knows and loves, but it doesn't necessarily mean that I enjoy it. And frankly, judging by the reaction of the crowd (which went from hysterically happy and leapy-aroundy to being like a bunch of people standing in a room) I don't think I am the only one that feels that way. Although I did enjoy the bit where the trumpet dude turned into a human didgeridoo, interspersed with some relatively high-pitched chirping, which was kind of excellent and kind of odd. All in all, though, it sort of reminded me of people who enjoy driving around roundabouts and not leaving them until all the other people in the car become annoyed and potentially abusive. It's kinda fun if you are in on the joke, kind of annoying if you aren't.

The zombie wave, which caused so much confusion at the Crowded House Concert, was a bit of a non-event at this concert, mainly, I think, because it only really happened in the gap before the encore (ie. when the band weren't on stage), and it kind of fizzled out before it reached its typical climax. Personally I was only too pleased to see the end of it, because the zombie waver just behind me seemed to be relatively short, and so his little outstretched zombie arms kept touching the top of my head, which was a bit unnerving, in the manner of being outdoors and having bugs land on your head. Actually (and happily only in retrospect), it reminds me of when I was attacked repeatedly by a bird while at a nursery (plant shop) last year. That was kind of terrifying, and it was really only me that the bird was swooping at.

By far the worst aspect of the concert (apart from the fact that everyone seemed to be really tall! I can't remember ever being at a concert where I had such a bad view, and we weren't even that far from the front, because it really isn't such a big venue. Probably smaller even than the Metro in Sydney, if you want a reference point. And it was a terrible change from the Rüeblimärt the other week, where absolutely everyone was teeny tiny. If I had lost Reto in that crowd I would have spotted him again in a second, but at The Cat Empire I would have had no chance) was the fact that it was so very, very smoky. Because I lead such a sad, shut-in, impoverished type lifestyle here I rarely go to pubs, and even though you are allowed to smoke in cafes etc here, there are rarely so many people smoking (and generally in the smoking section, which isn't actually separated by anything other than half a room, but it's better than nothing, I suppose) that it makes much of a difference to me. Last night, though? My god. By the time I got home I was feeling nauseous, and (strangely enough, since I only had a glass) as though I had drunk about 8 bottles of wine, all of which I blame on the smoke. Grr.

Anyway, it was a good night out and I'm glad I went, but the super-crowdedness of the place (we were really wedged in), and the super-smokiness, and the super-instrumentaliness of it all made it less shiny than it could have been. Which is really too bad, because The Cat Empire really are super.

And in other news, you'll all be pleased to know that I have now fulfilled my electoral responsibilities, filled in my voting form (in a cafe, while drinking a glass of wine, hee hee. Which is actually quite hard to do with the combination of the vastly huge senate form and a very small table), got an appropriate witness to witness it (thankyou Sarah) and posted it off.



* Is this right, Steph? Did we see them at the Blues Fest? Now that I think about it, I have no recollection of it at all.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

It's Not Me, It's You

Aah, Switzerland.

Apparently if Reto and I were both Swiss and getting married, at the time of our marriage we would have to decide on what our "family name" (ie. shared surname which would also be given to our potential/hypothetical children) would be and then stick with it forever (or maybe we could change it down the track, I don't really know, but the point is that everyone in the family is legally obliged to have the same name. Or at least the same name in their name, so some of us could be hyphenated-of-surname and some of us just have the shared name). There is no requirement that it be the man's name or the woman's name that is taken, or even a name that either of the people have already, but still, a shared name is needed.

I find this system overly intrusive. Personally I have no intention of changing my name after we get married. I like my name (although as everyone who knows what it is will acknowledge, it is kind of ridiculous. Possibly less so here because here it isn't a noun, and actually I suppose it is pronounced differently here, thus meaning that perhaps I sort of have a different name already, but if the point was that my name was too ridiculous to keep I would probably change my first name too), I feel like I have abandoned enough aspects of my former life and identity already by agreeing to live in Switzerland, and I have no particular fondness for Reto's name. Reto apparently also has no desire to adopt my name and ditch his own.

Happily, since I am foreign, we are allowed to adopt the rules used in my homeland, which means we can both carry on as who we are and we can call our kiddies whatever we want (actually I'm not too sure on that point either, but whatever we want relative to the normal Swissy way of doing things). If we were both Swiss, though, we might well be faced with a bit of a problem*.

In other news, there is no equivalent of Ms here either (as in Ms as opposed to Miss or Mrs).




* Of course maybe if I was Swiss I wouldn't think the Swiss way of doing it was odd or invasive.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Wedding Update

On the wedding front:

* Venue for the reception: check (and considering that that obviously includes also a hemisphere and a date, it's quite impressive. Not that we were ever planning on having the wedding over here)
* All Switzies (who need to book flights etc, for which they need vast quantities of notice, or at least as much as we can manage, which in this case is only a few months) informed of date: check

* Celebrant: check

* Wedding rings: check

Apart from inviting people, which I assume we will do fairly soon, everything else is officially not urgent/essential and may never get done. Yay for me/us.

More Laundry Stories

Today I decided to wash the sheets (for the first time in weeks and weeks. We sort of live in our own filth). I went to the laundry room, I marvelled at the fact that no one else was washing (which is unheard of), I put the washing on*, and as I was leaving I decided to have a quick look at the laundry rules (which up until now, 3 weeks before we leave forever, I have failed to do).

Yes, as we could have all guessed, you're not allowed to do your laundry on Sundays. This, while being completely insane (if the problem is noise, the laundry room is a whole 2 floors below the closest actual residential bit in the building and there is no way anyone would hear it from that distance. I can hardly hear the machines when the laundry room door is shut) is not at all unusual in Switzerland. Although I have never really done any laundry at all on weekends before (except maybe on one other Sunday, when I also noted the remarkable availability of washing machines) I've heard a zillion other people (foreigners) complain about how insane the rules in their apartment blocks are.

Anyway, I went back upstairs and told Reto about my terrible unSwissy behaviour, and he looked at me as though I was insane and then made some unkind comment about how I had probably misunderstood the rules (which were obviously written in german). He then gave it some more thought, and decided that I was still wrong, because this is a Protestant town and apparently Protestants have no regard for Sundays. Anyway, I made him go back down there to hang it out when the washing was finished (just in case we have vigilant rule-followers in the building who like to stand around and yell at surreptitious launderers) and he apparently ran into someone else who was doing their laundry too. Oh, and he checked the rules and found (shock horror) that I had read them correctly.

These Switzies are crazy.


* 40C if you are interested, which is as low as the temperature options go.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Happy Birthday Grandma! (and Nat)

Happy birthday Grandma, who is turning 90 (!) today! I'm sorry we can't be there for the party...
Happy birthday also to Nat, who gets second billing because she isn't turning 90. Sorry, Nat, but 30-something just isn't so special.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Unnecessary Personal Information

As my more enthusiastic readers will know, we are leaving our adorably tiny flat in Aarau at the end of the month (preceded a week earlier by the departure of our furniture, but rather than mooching off Reto's sister and her husband for an extra week, we are planning on camping in our flat with only an inflatable mattress, a saucepan and two laptops for company). After assorted mooching (as mentioned) and then a bit of a trip to Australia to get married , we will be coming back to Switz and moving to [a town that I have decided not to mention, for the sake of online semi-anonymity] where Reto has a new job. Happily, or possibly not, it's an exciting new town on the other side of the country, with lots more stuff than Aarau ever had to offer, where people speak a whole new language (french) and where I know absolutely no one.

So there you go. A new flat, a new marital status, a new language (grr).

Electoral Entertainment

In spite of my total lack of faith in the Australian Electoral Commision (based on their previous inability to send voting forms to me when I applied for a postal vote, and a vague paranoid idea of a conspiracy to stop people overseas from voting), I've just got my voting forms! Yay!

New Things That Have Happened Lately ..

1. I saw a woodpecker. Well, apparently Reto had to learn all about identifying birds when he was a schoolkiddy (he has surprisingly strong opinions on types of ducks) and he said it was a woodpecker, so I am giving him the benefit of the doubt.

2. I cooked chestnuts. Which was far less annoying than I imagined it might be. Actually, all I had to do was boil them for about half a second and then peel them (ouch) and chuck them in a frying pan with some brussels sprouts (cooking brussels sprouts was also a bit of a novelty for me, and yielded surprisingly delicious results. I think the chestnuts were a bit of an unnecessary addition to the meal, though).

3. I embraced german-speaking culture (sort of). Because we had a free ticket, we went and saw an Austrian production of The Importance Of Being Earnest last night (in german, although happily extremely well-enunciated german). I had swotted up for this by buying a copy of the play (in english! at the second hand bookshop the other day. Honestly I love that place and I will miss it enormously when we leave in 3 SHORT WEEKS!), so understanding it was no problem, but it was a bit dreary to read it and then watch it in the space of about 3 days. Interesting points to note are that, Lady Bracknell was played by a (large and extremely manly) man, and that basically the entire audience was 80+.

4. I saw kiddies doing the hokey pokey* in swiss german. Apparently that's what it's all about over here.

In other news, it's supposed to snow tonight, I think! Although apparently only above 600m, and a quick look at wikipedia shows me that Aarau has an elevation of only 381m. Sigh, but I am taking it a a promising sign of things to come.



UPDATE: Just now as Reto and I were out on my daily constitutional (which really is mine, he just trails along) it snowed on us! And it's still snowing now! Yay, and brr!


* Look at that link! Apparently they call it the "hokey cokey" in England. Is this true?

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Carrot Wonderland

Today is the day of the much-anticipated Aarau Rüeblimärt, aka carrot festival, aka the day the town turns into a carrot wonderland. Try as I sort of did to keep my hopes realistically low, I was quite excited about the whole thing, and I'm not even such a fan of carrots (although I do like them, but only really raw. Or in juice form. Cooked carrots leave me cold. And in a slightly-related story, I used to have a friend who once ate so many carrots that she turned kinda orange. Which was funny).

Anyway, carrot wonderland. Reto and I wandered off to the main drag (or near enough) where the carrot market (because that's all that a carrot wonderland consists of, apparently) was being held. I had a checklist of things I was expecting from the carrot fest, and the only thing I was disappointed by was the absence of a person dressed as a bunny. There were carrots galore (obviously, but also in a veritable rainbow of colours and shapes. Who knew that carrots came in other shapes?), all manner of baked carrot products (carrot cakes, carrot muffins, carrot bread etc), carrot soup, carrot jam, carrot cheese (ergh), carrot pizza (again), carrot art, fake carrot decorative items, real carrot decorative items, and, possibly best of all (and definitely better than a person dressed as a bunny), a stallholder dressed as a carrot.
Sadly we both somehow forgot to take any money with us, and so none of this wealth of carroty goodness could be ours, but at least we are rich in memories. Or something.



UPDATE: We went back to the market and bought a bunch of carrots. Which are delicious, but they were a total ripoff (4CHF, aka about $4 for that crappy bunch!). In other news, the main drag (not the same one as the carrot wonderland one, but the actual main drag that actual traffic drives along) was plunged into some sort of chemical hazard disaster situation. The road has been totally blocked off for a few hours (and still with no signs of being opened to traffic again in the near future when we last saw it) with firetrucks galore, some sort of chemical hazard people, lots of floodlights and all sorts of pipes and hoses everywhere. It all seems to involve some chemical-transporting vehicle. We are keeping an eye on the local news.

Monday, 5 November 2007

It's a Raabout!

Remember It's a Knockout? That ridiculous gameshow from the 80s or so which seemed (in my memory at least) to involve people dressing up in ridiculous (often heavily padded) outfits and hitting each other with inflatable hammers and so on*? There's something on on telly here (well, in Germany, but close enough) that seems to be It's a Knockout's new-century relative. Possibly it's been going on for ages, actually, so it might not actually be a new-century relative, but that's not important.

It's called Schlag den Raab, and it's a gameshow that's on every now and then, and it involves a contestant playing assorted games against this dude Stefan Raab (who may possibly be the Eddie McGuire of German telly. Or maybe the Eddie McGuire back in the days when he was on every TV show in sight, before he turned into a semi-absentee Serious Businessman Type). Anyway, there is a member-of-the-public type contestant and Stefan Raab, and they play 15 different games of varying ludicrousness (such as answering general knowledge type questions, identifying celebrities, balancing on the end of a 10m pole, memory and reaction time type tests, this weird game involving hitting a nail with a hammer, playing soccer only while driving cars and using a ginormous ball, and playing pingpong on a tiny tiny table) and it goes on and on and on and on for hours (apparently it is show kinda live on TV and it always starts late and it's not unusual for it to finish at 1am or something) and if Stefan Raab wins he doesn't get anything, and if the other person wins, they get some relatively vast amount of money.

It's kind of crap, but it's good to see that people's silly talents from the olden days (by which I mean the It's a Knockout-type years) are still appreciated. It's like seeing people breakdancing, which I approve of enormously.






* Did you know that the Australian version of It's a Knockout was axed because people living near the oval in which it was filmed complained so much? Huh.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Things I Have Been Doing Lately

Looking at wedding rings and brochures, grr ..
.. and being stared at (discreetly, but obviously not enough that I don't notice) by jewellers who are presumably wondering what sort of hideous accident made my little finger so freakishly crooked.

Making the most of the last weeks that the library in Aarau is open (they are closing in 3 weeks and not opening again until the end of the year, but we are moving out at the end of November so that means that I have to read all the rest of the english language books there in the next 3 weeks, and watch all the DVDs that I mean to watch).
Laughing at Reto, who has recently decided that wearing socks and Birkenstocks is a totally acceptable option. Fortunately he only does this in the privacy of our own home, but the second he thinks about stepping outside like this is the second that we start having a serious conversation about Unacceptable Fashion Choices That May Well Result In Domestic Disharmony. Incidentally, he can't really cope with the idea of not wearing socks when he is indoors, a trait that he has apparently inherited from his family, all of whom exclaim relentlessly when they see me walking around on warm carpeted surfaces with no socks on.
As well as that, I saw a woman in a cafe yesterday who was wearing a jumper that I own, which was weird, and on the weekend I ate a deer. Well, a small part of one, and also these mysterious deep fried apple slices (kinda like apple doughnuts, but apparently from Ye Olden Days, and ridiculously oily)

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Happy Birthday, Kizzy!

Happy birthday, Kizzy (a day early because I will be absent from technology tomorrow, but since I doubt you read my blog anyway (so you think you have better things to do? Hah!) I suppose it doesn't matter)!
And since you are unlikely to read this, can I just say that this cat kind of reminds me of you. The hat reminds me of that Mongolian one of yours ...

Friday, 26 October 2007

Awkward Belated Announcement

Reto and I are getting married. It's weird, it's exciting, it's actually a total nightmare (I don't want to plan the wedding and Reto doesn't want to elope). He asked me last week, so if I hadn't already told you (sorry!) at least you can console yourself with the fact that you didn't know for not very long.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Grr

Personally I am enthusiastically looking forward to the days of the peak oil crisis and resulting apocalyptic/disaster type situation when I never have to bother feeling bad about my extravagant wasting of the world's resources again (because there will be no more resources) and when I never have to book another *&^%$#ing international flight again.

I am currently in the throes of changing the dates of a flight from Zurich to Sydney in January, and from various phonecalls to Swiss (airline) I have now ascertained that the flight I particularly bought because it let me change the dates for free is now either unchangeable unless I pay a fee of around 800 CHF, or totally unchangeable (depending on who I speak to. I phoned yesterday and heard that it was going to cost a fortune, than I panicked and said I would think about it while I checked various other sources of information, then I called back today and was told it was totally impossible to change no matter how much money I threw at them, then I got Reto to call the german-speaking call centre people about 2 minutes later and they said it is still possible to change but I have to pay the 800 CHF and the woman he spoke to couldn't instantly confirm both legs of the flight so we have to call back again later. Grr). Which may mean that I will miss my own wedding. Hmm.


UPDATE: I have the flight. I don't want to talk about the cost though. Grr.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

I Hate Sport

I just saw an ad for some tennis thing that is apparently currently on (and ruining the normal televiewing opportunities, frankly, because it seems that these Switzies are Fools For Sport, and so every time any sporty event is on (specifically tennis, soccer or anything involving snow or ice) ALL the Switzy channels turn into temples for the continuous worship of said sport, grr) and they described it as a "Federer-Fest". Hahahah.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Sheepish

Look what I got at my favourite cafe today!It's funny because it's true (sort of)*.



* "I'm a black sheep too", which obviously has political implications, but is also reminiscent of these ads in Zurich that tell people that all the public transport there is integrated and you can use the same tickets on everything (eg. "Ich bin auch ein Bus" stuck on the sides of boats or trams or whatever). Not that I am suggesting that the public transport thing has much to do with me, because I am not also a bus, but you know what I mean.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Votin'

It's votin' day in Switzerland today. Everyone gets their votin' forms posted to them, and you can just post them back (which Reto did a few weeks ago), or apparently you can take them off to a polling booth today and bung them in the votin' box. Which seems like a strange option to take, but apparently people do. Or they just don't vote at all, because it's not compulsory here (except in Schaffhausen, apparently, which is weird).

In other electoral news, I seem to have successfully applied for a postal vote in the upcoming Australian election, but frankly I am not holding my breath for the forms to arrive. Last time I applied for a postal vote I was in the USA and my voting forms were sent to my home address in Australia. Which was not very handy.


UPDATE: Oh Switzerland. It seems the "black sheep" thing hit a bit of a chord. In general it seems that the right wing vote is kinda up and the lefty vote is kinda down.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

It's A Good Thing I Avoid Too Much Introspection...

... because in the last week or so I have had three dreams in which Reto left me or tried to kill me or done me wrong. In the first one he just left me one day, leaving me all distraught and confused (and I subsequently went on to cause a really horrific train/truck accident in which heaps of people died in a really grisly fashion), in the next one he was involved with some other woman who framed me (really stupidly, but apparently enough to convince everyone) for some crime, leaving me to languish forevermore in jail and her and Reto to run off to some tropical island together, and in the last one he tried to push me off a very tall building and then left me dangling from the guttering facing an imminent and inevitable plunge to my end.

I wonder what my subconscious is trying to tell me.

Things That Happened Today

1. We went to the movies in Zurich and I ran into people I know. Which was super, and remarkable because I don't know anyone.

2. We came back to Aarau and went to the shop at the train station that stays open late (-ish) to buy some bread and we had to fight past crowds of boozy teenagers to get in! As it turns out the Aperto (the shop) is the place to hang out and buy cheap (-ish) beer and be cool if you are a grotty 16-year-old (who is allowed to buy beer but possibly is being refused entry to pubs*, or doesn't want to pay their prices). A grotty, freezing, horrible train station tunnel. Aah the joys of being a teenager.

3. I heard that Australia's status as a continent is controversial. Although every Australian schoolkiddy will tell you that Australia is the largest island and the smallest continent, apparently Switzies need to go to the crap press (Heute, which is one of those free newspapers heavily associated with public transport) for reassurance. Happily my knowledge of geographical terms in german (Kontinentalsockel, hee hee), or rather my ability to guess their meaning, is good enough for me to be assured that our teachers weren't lying to us**. And while we are on the subject, I would just like to make plain my opinion that any of those "Seven Summits" mountaineer types who haven't climbed Mt Kosciuszko are nothing but climbing snobs*** who are having themselves on. So there, Reinhold Messner****.



* Which they do a bit around here. Apparently there is one place that likes to only let in people over 21 in order to keep out the basic training army riffraff who are often around. Apparently there is a lot of basic training goes on near here.
** That being said, please don't follow those links to the stuff about the continents, because depending on how much of it you read you might come to the conclusion that the teachers were lying and that Australia is not its own continent but only part of one, which is kind of sad and boring.
*** The fact that my parents could drive a mini minor to the top of the highest mountain in Australia (back in the olden days when the path was open to vehicular traffic, anyway) means nothing.
**** I have nothing but the highest respect for Reinhold Messner.

Friday, 19 October 2007

The French Advench(ure)

Well, we're back and vaguely exhausted. We cleverly avoided the rain and the train strike (although only just! Apparently if our train home had left any later on Wednesday evening it wouldn't have left at all). We walked around a lot, we saw a bunch of sights and museums and so on, we got vaguely fandangled into the rugby world cup (well, we got sort of swept along in the crowds of people flocking to watch the France-England match on a big screen near the Eiffel Tower on Saturday. Don't get too carried away, though, we didn't watch the game or anything)I bought some rather fantastic stripy gloves, we ate vast quantities of scary cheese and apple tart and fish, we went on an excellent trip to the seaside (to Honfleur and Etretat, which are in the middle of the northern coast of France) for a few days(where we ate fish and mussels and oysters galore and walked around on grim stony beaches and goggled at the cliffs. Oh, and we saw the Pont de Normandie, which is this ginormous bridge over the mouth of the Seine, which happens to look almost exactly like the ANZAC bridge in Sydney, which was nice). I was forced by assorted French relatives of Reto's to drag out my non-existent French-speaking skills (honed during the several years of French classes I had in high school where there was only me and one other person in the class and we didn't have a teacher and somehow we had also not been enrolled in the correspondence course that we were supposed to be in, so needless to say I really can't speak any French at all), and also to eat frogs' legs (which were great. And extremely garlicky, which was also great).


On other matters, I had no idea that there was such a dearth of nice coffee in France (I don't really have such strong opinions on what is nice coffee and what isn't, but everything I had was horrible), and I had no idea that so many of the character names in the French version of Asterix were so crap (you would think that the original language would have the best names, but no. Getafix, for example, is called Panoramix in French (which is crap. He is called Miraculix in German, though, which is great), and Unhygenix is called Ordralfbetix (as in alphabetical order, not funny or relevant). Happily, Dogmatix is called Idefix in French and in German, which is great although obviously not as great as Dogmatix. Which obviously has the advantage of having "dog" in it).

(weird enormous human-bird-combo skeleton in the grounds of the palace of Versailles. Anyone know what it's all about?)

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Baguette or Zopf?

Brace yourselves, loyal readers. I am on the brink of switching my Swiss-style loafing for some Frenchy-loafing*, which is much the same thing, I suppose, but with less blogging and more walking. See you in a week or so!




* We're going to Paris for a week.

Lenz

The other day I watched a movie and I had all sort of intentions of making some more

Unfair Assumptions Brought To Us By The World Of Swiss Cinema

but as it turns out, I find it a bit tricky with this film. It was called Lenz, and it was semi-German, semi-Swiss, entirely odd. It was about a tormented german filmmaker with a Swiss ex and a son, and tormented filmmaker man spent the whole time wallowing about in Zermatt in various states of lunacy, pining for the return of said son and ex. Which he actually had more success with than you would have thought, but happily for us, he also had a lot of disappointment and wackily erratic behaviour.

Unfortunately, I don't know if I should attribute the craziness to Switzies or to Germans, so I am going to make do, instead, with talking about how everyone in Switzerland eats the same kind of butter and the same kind of milk. Not that this is surprising, because there are very few different brands of supermarkets, and they don't really have a vast choice in most things (unless you are talking about the cheese section or the yoghurt section, because there you are wallowing in choice. Which doesn't sound very sanitary, everyone wallowing in the yoghurt section, but of course this is Switzerland and so it is only figurative wallowing, and even if it was literal, I'm sure someone would come along with a mop soon enough). I enjoyed seeing them buttering their toast with the same butter that I would butter mine with if we had toast-appropriate bread or a toaster, and drinking the same milk that i have on my cereal every morning, though. And then there was the scene on the balcony where their glass wall had the same stick-on bird pictures (to stop other birds from flying into the glass) as you see all over the place here.

Aah Switzerland, home of diversity.

Happy Birthday Kristie!

Owing to Kristie being more of a dog-fan than a cat-fan (and also to the dwindling number of birthday-appropriate cats), say hello to the first birthday cat-dog! Or alternatively, say happy birthday to Kristie!

Monday, 8 October 2007

Goats Etc

I had such a goat-packed weekend. Which is something that I don't think I've ever had the chance to say before.

On Saturday night Reto and I went to see Circus Monti. I haven't seens a circus since I was a wee young thing, but happily this one was really quite adult-friendly, and featured no clowns whatsoever, no audience participation, almost no kiddies in the audience and no putting of heads into the mouths of lions. Instead there were performing goats (kind of poorly performing in some instances, which really added to their charm rather than detracting from it), lots of juggling and leaping and falling over, all those circusy things that you would expect like tightropes and trapezes and good looking, well-muscled young men, and all those circusy things that apparently people here would expect but that came as a bit of a surprise to me, like crepes (apparently crepes are to Switzy circuses what fairy floss is to Australian circuses. Although they also had fairy floss for sale as well. We ate a crepe though. Not lemon and sugar, sadly, but banana and chocolate, which was kind of horrible). Anyway, the circus was full of high points (I think I liked the tiny woman who juggled the enormous ceramic pot plant pot thing, and the table (not at the same time) on her feet the most) and had one small but influential low point - the seats were really uncomfortable. So much so that I could hardly move by the time it was over and have been in absolute agony ever since, including all of yesterday, when ...

Reto and I went on an excursion to Engelberg with his parents. We had planned to go somewhere else, but the weather was deemed inclement, so we went to Engelberg instead, where it was all blue (sky) and green (grass) and white (glaciers. Or maybe just snow, I don't know) and lovely. We walked around and gawked at the scenery and the many thousands of parapenters, and I became progressively more and more crippled as the pain from my back spread down my leg and up my neck and basically everywhere. It was really a lovely day for it, though.

The goaty highlight of that day was this weird sort of small and temporary saleyard that was set up in a parking lot that we passed by on our way to Engelberg. A bunch of people had brough along a bunch of goats and sheep and tethered them to some fences, and then assorted passers by (like us) turned up and gawked a bit and considered buying a sheep/goat. Presumably some people went there deliberately with the intention of actually purchasing some livestock, but we only stopped there because we were passing by and it looked wacky. And so sadly we didn't buy anything (where does one keep a sheep or goat when one lives in a one room flat on the 8th floor?) but I did pat some baby goats and a few adorable little puppies, and I successfully managed not to get bitten by anything.

A successful day all round. If you don't count the cripple thing.

Foggy

It's relentlessly foggy at the moment.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Movies n Music

Well, yesterday was an excellent day of loafing and culture. Reto finished this big hideous exam that he has spent the past zillion years studying for on Thursday, so he spent the first half of Sunday being sort of hung over and vile, but by the afternoon everything was shipshape again (relatively).

We went to Zurich and availed ourselves of some more of the Film Fest. We saw this Spanish film called La Caja (aka The Wooden Box, although I do wonder if that should really have been "The Coffin"or similar, which seems more likely. Apparently I don't wonder enough to go and look at a spanglish dictionary though), which was really great and dark and full of secrets and grimness. There was a question and answer thing afterwards with the director, not something I normally enjoy much, but at this screening there were only about 50 people and so the whole thing had a really intimate feel. People were asking questions in all sorts of languages (well, spanish and german and english) and it all had a really informal, friendly, funny vibe, which is really pretty different from the Q&As I am used to at the Sydney Film Fest, which are often more about people pontificating and showing off. Interestingly, the movie only had english subtitles, and it was all in spanish. No german in sight.

After that we had some dinner and then went and saw a Crowded House concert with my Australian Zurich friends, Sarah and Kathryn, which was really fun. It was a nice change to be surrounded by english-speakers (let alone english-speakers with Australian and New Zealandy accents!) and to be able to eavesdrop on people with ease (not that anyone was saying much worth eavesdropping on). We stood behind the sound desk for the concert, which I always enjoy because it usually makes it easy to see the stage, and also because I enjoy spying on the set list (or whatever it's called) and spoiling the surprise for myself. As you would expect, they played some new stuff (which no one knew), lots of old stuff (which everyone knew), and the odd bit of this and that. Interestingly, Davey Lane was part of the band.

Swiss people, as it turns out, are strange in crowd situations. They have this mysterious mock mexican wave thing that they do that involves holding both arms out in front of you and waggling your fingers in a "spirit fingers" kinda way while simultaneously humming a constant note (ie. making you look like a zombie having a fit), and then ideally I think someone at the front sort of takes charge so everyone knows when they can then wave their arms in the air in a more traditional mexican wave type style (except not around in a circle as in an arena, but more of a front to back thing). I have seen this a few times (at the schwinging, and at this concert we went to in Baden a while ago), and people sort of tried to do it last night at the concert, but it was evidently confusing for the Crowdies. The first time it happened the humming was much more prominent than the hand wobbling (I think the lights were down) and Neil Finn dealt with it admirably by assuming we were giving him a note and then he turned it into "Friday I'm In Love", which was funny. The second time the hands were everywhere and the humming was nowhere and Neil looked confused for a while, then he tried to join in a bit as well and started waving his fingers in more of a "black and white minstrel" (or at least black-and-white-minstrel-as-featured-on-The-Goodies) sort of way. Then everyone sort of gave up (which we surmised might have had something to do with the fact that the audience was probably less Switzies and more antipodeans). Katherine, who is quite the veteran of Zurich living (7 years!), says it's always interesting to see how foreign bands deal with the zombie wave. I think the Crowdies coped admirably. Hopefully the next chance I have to see will be in November, when the Cat Empire are touring Yay!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

How Do You Pronounce "Philistine"?

There's a pub in Sydney called the Löwenbräu Keller. Everyone pronounces the name "low-en-brow" (I don't know about phonetic spelling, but that's low as in the opposite of high and brow as in eyebrow), even people who should know better (such as the Austrian person I didn't go there with once, and the dude from my german class who managed the place for 7 years, and even Reto these days). Frankly, it's called the "low-en-brau" and if anyone tried to pronounce it properly no one would know where they were talking about*.

I was reading something the other day about german words in english, and how english speakers are abysmal at pronouncing a lot of them. Apparently we are quite good at saying "poltergeist", "gesundheit" and "kindergarten", but we fall down all over the place with "Porsche", "neandertal" and "Fahrvergnügen" (which apparently featured in a VW ad years ago, although possibly only in the USA. I don't know, but I do know that I have never heard anyone try to say it, correctly or otherwise).

I am willing to accept that we generally don't say "Porsche" properly. It's a business, or more importantly a proper noun, and as such, in my opinion, we should pronounce the "e" and try to say its name as it was originally intended (even though we then do run the risk of being misunderstood or thought of as wankers) . Obviously that is the complete opposite of what I apparently so heartily approved of in the first paragraph (that the Löwenbräu is the low-en-brow), but I am willing to admit that I am not only occasionally wrong but also occasionally inconsistent, and to not apologise for that at all.

The "neandertal" thing, however, is another matter entirely. The point in the thing I read was that "neandertal" is a german word and although we use the word in english (albeit possibly spelt slightly differently, ie. with an h. Apparently both spellings are acceptable in english, incidentally, but I have never seen it without an "h" before) but we don't pronounce it properly like the german-speakers do. Umm, that would be because it is not a german word any more, I say. I mean, obviously it is a german word, but it is also an english word now as well, and once a word has been adopted into a new language, I really think that the new language people should be able to pronounce it as the general rules of their language dictate. And that means with a "th" sound, in my opinion. Although apparently, according to that article I read, that means that I am not one of the "informed people", who all prefer the germanic-type pronunciation.

Any opinion?





* Possibly a slight exaggeration, but you get my point.

Happy Birthday(s) Poppy and Sarah!

Today it's a shared birthday cat: Happy birthday to Sarah, and also to Poppy!

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

For All Your Waffle Board Needs

According to my blog stats thing (which I don't approve of me having but I am too nosy to get rid of it) lots of people* arrive at my blog by googling the words "waffle board". I always asumed that this was because they had seen my blog before, kinda remembered the name but not the address and were specifically looking for the blog. As it turns out, though, waffle board is a thing, and if it is waffle board you are looking for, and not me waffling, then here you go:
Enjoy. I don't know what it is, by the way. But I do know where you can get it from.



* lots relative to the entire number that actually read it, which is really not that many

Back To Work, Slacker

Congratulations to my sister, who is not unemployed scum any more.

Not that there's anything wrong with being unemployed scum, my life choices are perfectly valid, etc etc etc.

The Cold Hard Light Of Day

My sunnies broke the other day. It's not the first time, and they are only a crappy cheap pair from Manor, but I still have every desire to rescue them and none to go and try to find a new pair, and so I have been forced to try to fix them myself. The tiny screw that holds the arm on fell out unexpectedly while I was in a cafe the other day, and so after grubbing around fruitlessly on the floor for five minutes I gave up, went home, experimented with a toothpick and then mangled apart the biggest paperclip you have ever seen to create this:


Which is not ideal. Not only do I have an enormous metal spike living dangerously close to my eye, in this land of excessive kissing I am also in danger of inadvertently poking other people's eyes out too when they lean in for the kill. I mean kiss.

So consider yourself warned. Until such time as I get new sunnies or some sort of metal clipping device, I pose a great threat to your future visual opportunities (assuming we meet and I kiss you. Or you kiss me).

Zzz

Reto has been getting up unconscionably early for the last few days, and as it turns out it's really great. He sneaks around quietly having breakfast and trying not to wake me up and then he leaves and then I have all that bed and doona to myself. I haven't slept this well since he was in the army.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Nouveau Cuisine

Today when I was at the supermarket (lots of my stories seem to involve those words. How depressing) I got a free sample sachet of sweet chilli sauce. Is this because it's a novel new item and they are trying to raise its profile?

Hee hee.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Apple Day

Yesterday was apparently Apple Day, which meant that farmers (or possibly not really, because I imagine they have better things to do. Strapping outdoorsy-looking and kinda hairy young men, in Aarau's case) were giving away apples at the train stations and on buses* and so on. The apple I had was the most delicious apple I have had in a long time**, so crispy and crunchy and not too sweet. Yum.





* The strapping/outdoorsy/hairy men weren't on the buses, actually. I saw only unmanned boxes of apples on the buses. The men were at the train station.
** With the possible exception of an apple I had at lunchtime yesterday, actually, which was in this weird salad that seemed to involve little except slices of Granny Smith and a bunch of mushed up avocado. Possibly some lemon juice or something as well, I suppose, because it hadn't browned at all. It was absolutely delicious, and kind of odd.

Not Very Blokey

Reto has taken to ordering lattes lately whenever we go out for coffee (which is all the time. And incidentally, a cafe latte is called a schale here), whereas I am sticking with my tried and true favourite, and formerly his as well, the kaffee creme (which is like a long espresso, I suppose, with an excellent little container of this thin cream stuff, or possibly really fatty milk if you want to look at it that way. The best thing is that the cream container always has some dorky picture on it, and it's always a bit exciting to see what you will get. The pictures come in themes that seem to hang around for a while before the next one appears. My favourite cafe here, Gossip, has had nothing but boring pictures of old-fangled coffee bean grinders for the last few months, but the art gallery cafe, which used to have the coffee grinders too, has moved on to pictures of dogs, so I am hoping that Gossip will also soon drag itself into a new age of cream as well. Because I go there far more than I go to the art gallery cafe). Practically without fail, I am given his coffee and he is given mine.

Apparently I am wearing the (coffee) pants in out relationship, and he's hopelessly girly.

Zurich Film Fest

Last night Reto and I inadvertently went to the Zurich Film Festival. I hadn't realised it had started yet or I'm sure we would have gone deliberately, but we had actually gone to Zurich to see another movie (and to waste time, because Reto has this exam of his on Monday and he is looking around for excuses not to study any more). Anyway, the film we had meant to see was only on dubbed into german, blahblahblah, so when we happened upon a ZFF programme we decided to go to the next thing that was on at that instead, which was (the world premiere of) this Austrian movie called Freundschaft. It was about a father and son discussing family and national politics relentlessly for an hour and a half (based on a play, which you could really tell from the intense wordiness of it all, the absence of other characters and action, and the total lack of importance of scenery), and which was all quite charming (although possibly better if you know more about Austrian politics).

Several things are worth noting. Firstly, the tickets were ludicrously expensive (21 francs each!), which is not really surprising but still worth being horrified by. Secondly, english really seems to be the main language of the ZFF, which I appreciate but I am still sort of outraged on behalf of Switzies. Freundschaft was obviously in german (with english subtitles), but the short film before it (which was this extremely explicit and funny cartoon about one girl's sexual (mis)adventures) was in english and had no subtitles. Reto saw a few things at the Fest last year and he says that one of the features he saw (as opposed to the short film before it) then was also in english and had no subtitles at all. Which, as I said, is appalling. And speaking of appalling, the subtitles were weird. The word "snafu" featured, as did "perdu". Pardon?

Thirdly, the movie theatre we were in had a flat floor (which has nothing to do with the Fest, but still). The seats were absolutely enormous (so much so that you couldn't really see the head of the person in front of you) and the screen was a fair way up in the air, so it was no problem seeing the screen, but it was still peculiar to be in a flat movie theatre. The only other times I can think of this happening were in places that aren't really movie theatres (such as the State Theatre in Sydney (although only if you sit in the Stalls, and even then the floor is gently slopy), or at the Inverell town hall when I was a kiddy and they used to show movies there once a fortnight because there was no movie theatre in town. Although, archaically enough, there was a drive-in. Which also had a flat floor). Weird.

There was no intermission (hurray). We did still have allocated seats, and ticket prices that depend on which seats you want, which I totally disapprove of, but the lack of intermission was good.

Possibly the funniest thing that happened was the entry of the festival jury (who were all sitting in the row in front of us), which involved them all turning up a bit late and the last one, who was sort of old and a bit unsteady on his feet, and who was still walking in as they turned the lights down so he probably couldn't see anything, inadvertently sitting on Dieter Meier (who seems to have done everything, including being a member of Yello, the only Swiss band you have ever heard of). Fortunately it seemed they had already been introduced and so it wasn't as awkward as it could have been, and the man took his own seat, not on top of Dieter Meier.

It was a nice evening. The film wasn't so great (Reto liked it far more than I did. I like the fact that I had no idea what it was going to be about before we went and saw it. Oh, and the short film was excellent) but I always enjoy a film fest experience, and this one didn't let me down. I think there will definitely be more of it next week...