Saturday, 28 April 2007
Aah, pizza man, how I love you.
Friday, 27 April 2007
We got there and I went to the bar. I ordered two beers. The bartender gave them to me, and he said "that'll be 17.40". I said "but isn't it happy hour?", and he said "no, it's been cancelled". And so I handed over a 20, he gave me 2 francs back and I was outraged. I mean, I know how much beer costs here, but I was expecting it to be half that price, and for him to assume the rest of my change was a tip without even giving me the option of handing it back to him after he had handed it back to me seems a bit presumptuous. And for those of you who don't know, 18 francs over here equals about $18 over there, give or take. And for those of you who have no grip on reality whatsoever, that's a lot for two beers. And how can happy hour be cancelled??
Happily, though, no happy hour meant fewer patrons, which mean that the dart board was free, which meant that Reto and I had the chance to try to play a game of Round The World With Morten Dingstad (a ridiculously confusing version of "round the world" that Reto and I invented a few years ago, and have consequently kind of forgotten the finer details of. Incidentally, wikipedia tells me that "round the world" is actually called "round the clock". Hmm). It also meant that we had fewer people to beat in trivia, but sadly we failed to win that when Reto let us down abysmally in the sport round (as if I can be expected to know who won some mysterious Swiss soccer competition last year, or where some hockey thing is being held next year. As if I even know to assume that "hockey" means ice hockey).
I would end on a high note and say "better luck next time" or something to that effect, but apparently trivia is a seasonal sport here, and it's not coming back until autumn. Weirdos.
Thursday, 26 April 2007
Wednesday, 25 April 2007
Back in the olden days when I was a usefully employed member of society I used to have lunch at about 1.30pm, if not later. I was having breakfast by about 7am, and dinner probably at about 7pm, so lunch at 1ish made sense, and even later made even more sense because it made the afternoon seem that much shorter. What is going on with all these crazy Swiss, then? Do they start work that early (my poll of one, Reto, says no. He usually manages to get there by 8am, but even then he doesn't ever have breakfast before 7am)? Do they not eat breakfast at all (poll of one says no again)? Is it some sort of race to get the best sandwiches? Do organised people sneak out at morning tea time and buy up all the delicious ones, and then sensibly go to the park to eat them at 1.30pm when the crowds have thinned?
Sunday, 22 April 2007
It was all ridiculously upmarket and fancy until we got a bit carried away, finished half the bottle of gin and ended up sprawled all over the place like a couple of drunks. Aah, the fun of being a sporadic drinker.
Tuesday, 17 April 2007
Yes, it's sechseläuten time of year, which means that Zürich goes on holiday, there is much parading and dressing up, and then a snowman effigy is set alight and watched eagerly until his head explodes. This snowman bit is the focal point of it all, and it involves a huge bonfire, a pretend snowman (called the böögg, and described in Wikipedia as a "rag doll", but it seems a lot more slow-burning than that) perched atop the bonfire and stuffed full of explosives, and a stopwatch. The idea is that the time from when the böögg's pyre is lit and when his head explodes is taken as some indication of what the coming summer will be like (a quick time means a long, hot, dry summer, a long time means a rainy short summer).
Happily, for slackers such as myself, it's all shown on telly. It took 12 minutes or so for the böögg's head to explode, which apparently bodes an average sort of summer (although Reto tells me that he read something recently which said that research shows there is no correlation between the time taken for the head to explode and the quality of the summer, which is too bad, because I like a nice ordinary, non-hot summer).
My impression of it all, possibly because I was in a bad sort of mood while I was watching it, is that it was a bit much like some sort of public burning-at-the-stake for my liking (although apparently a fairly historically inaccurate attempt). The crowd of people gathered around, the smoke and flames creeping ever higher, the enthusiasm with which we all watched and waited for the grisly end. If only I had brought some knitting.
Sunday, 15 April 2007
Saturday, 14 April 2007
Anyway, spring has sprung and even though there is a dearth of Scandies with sausages, it is really noticeable that winter has gone. There are flowers galore (and I do mean galore), and I keep getting sunburnt, and people are wearing sandals and shorts and no coats (actually, today I went outside without a jacket for the first time since I arrived here), and all the restaurants and cafes in Aarau have now got their outdoor seating in full swing. Actually, it's quite nice because the streets in the main part of town are car-free and so there are tables in the streets and flowerpots and people dawdling around, and it's all really summery and pleasant.
All of this outdoor loveliness means that you can't walk through the town at busy times without running into someone you know (which is really something, considering I hardly know anyone here), and everyone seems somehow friendlier. Every time I go out for lunch with Reto we spot at least a handful of his colleagues, all smiling and waving and wishing us en guete, and people are sharing park benches and throwing bits of their sandwiches to the birds that flock around and so on. Even the waitress in the cafe that we usually have coffee at has become far friendlier in the last week or so.
More interesting is that whenever I am wandering around town without Reto, stray men inevitably flirt with me. I suspect this might be weather-related, because it didn't happened so much before last week. The charm of it all is that because they are always speaking in german or swiss german or whatever, I have no idea what is going on and can therefore convince myself that it is something charming and witty and excellent, instead of being sadly shown that they are oiks yelling "oi love, show us yer tits then", as oiks so often do.
Of course maybe I am just flattering myself and they are not flirting with me at all. Maybe they are smiling and winking suggestively, but yelling "get out of our country, you messy-haired, laundry-rule-flouting foreigner". Hmm.
Friday, 13 April 2007
Yesterday, as I was angrily doing some laundry, I was accosted by an aging neighbour. I like to discourage conversation in the laundry room because there's no escape, and it's inevitably confusing and scary and heavily garbled (because it's in german, people. Do try to keep up), but this woman would not take no for an answer (not that I actually said "no" at any point; I just looked like a startled bunny the whole time). Anyway, once the conversation progressed to the point where she realised I speak abysmal german and it was all going to be a huge struggle for us both (which incidentally was a very small distance from the initial "grüezi"), I had hoped she would leave me alone with my laundry and my silent solitude (god, how depressing) but no, her interest was piqued and suddenly she wanted to know all about me. This included where I am from, who I live with, what floor we live on, how many rooms we have and how long we have been living here. If she had been younger I might have suspected her of being some sort of undercover immigration officer there to grill me and throw me out of the country, but I think her point might have been that she wanted to tell me that she had been living in her flat (5th floor, 3 rooms) for 25 years. Which struck me as strange conversation. And also as a long time. Actually, I was surprised that the building was that old.
Later in the day I was in the lift with Reto when another elderly neighbour got in with us. Interestingly, but not relevantly, he was very, very short. Anyway, he and Reto made a bit of polite chitchat while I smiled inanely, and apparently (I later discovered) he told Reto that he has been living in his flat (10th floor, undisclosed number of rooms) for 40 years. Lordy.
Why do people keep telling me this stuff? Are they trying to warn me that we have inadvertently moved into some sort of bizarro vortex thing that we will never get out of? Am I going to live here forever? I mean, Aarau is okay, and our flat has some amount of charm, but 25 years? 40? Really?
Thursday, 12 April 2007
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
As it turns out, Olivia's 'sensibly employed' Australian persona was all a bit of a con and in fact she is kind of bonkers. One of the first people we met (and I use that term loosely) was Foster the pig:
(No animals were harmed during the making of this post. None that are actually alive, anyway. Fosty survived mostly unmangled)
Friday, 6 April 2007
And so I have decided to henceforth re-dedicate myself to the cold water approach. It's more environmentally friendly, apparently no worse in terms of making your clothes clean or getting the stains out (as long as you haven't been rolling around in grease or butter, which as far as I am aware I haven't), and it doesn't make anything fade or the colours run.
The only thing that stands in my way now is the fact that apparently the washing machines here won't let me fulfill my laundering dreams of environmental consciousness. It seems that on a normal wash, the lowest temperature I can get is 30 degrees. Sigh.
Thursday, 5 April 2007
Reto and I stood and goggled.
The woman whose handbag it was (elderly-ish English tourist and female friend of similar age) caught up in time to see the motorbike sputter off, and to make stiff-upper-lip type comments within our hearing about how it was only money. She and her friend walked off and Reto and I were left to contemplate.
I've always thought of myself as the useful type who would stick a leg out or give a well-timed shove at the crucial moment and trip the thief/assailant, thus preventing his getaway and saving the day (I'm sure in this little scene there are always other useful types around who can then restrain said assailant and save me from having to rely on my own strength or agility), but apparently I am not that type after all. I'm sure we have all the usual excuses of how quickly it all happened, and how it took a moment to realise what was going on and by then it was too late, and those are legitimate excuses, but I still felt a bit crap about my total lack of assistance.
The strap of the handbag was flailing out to the side as he ran, and I was close enough that I could have easily reached it. The thief himself was within arm's reach of me. I could have easily done something, and the fact that I am not really sure what that might have been, nor what the consequences of that might have been, is not really much consolation.
Contemplating on what could have happened differently occupied most of our conversation for the rest of the night. We both felt bad for not doing anything. Was the woman disappointed that we didn't help? Was she surprised? Would she have been more annoyed or less if we had apologised for not helping (maybe she excused our inaction because she thought we didn't understand what she was yelling)? Why didn't we do anything? What could we have done? Would the thief's interests have been more in fighting back and keeping the bag (if we had tried to grab it back from him) or in getting away? Would he have retaliated against us if we had have done anything? What was he stealing it for anyway? How would we have felt if we were the ones robbed (Reto had already lost his credit card by that point so he would have had less to lose than me, grr)? Would it have made it worse if two able-bodied bystanders had stood around watching and not helping?
I don't know what any of the answers are, but I did give my handbag more thought after that. I just hope I don't one day turn into one of those people who wears a money belt.
Wednesday, 4 April 2007
- Owing to a very early flight on Saturday morning we stayed with my friend Cecile in Basel on Friday night. This involved, among other things, eating lots of excellent raclette, which is always entertaining. Aah, cheese;
- I was the only person on the entire flight who had any difficulty at the airport! I had to fill in customs forms and then re-queue and be asked questions and be quizzed on whether I live in Norway or not! Damn those Australian passports;
- Reto lost his bank card thing within about half an hour of getting off the plane in France. Really, it was a Saturday morning and the bank in question apparently didn't open again until Tuesday morning, the day we were coming home, so guess who had to pay for everything? It all seems a little bit too convenient, if you ask me;
- We had bad luck with buses. We missed them, we caught the wrong ones, we were kidnapped by an angry bus driver with an ipod who wouldn't let us out until we got to the airport (which was about 15 minutes past where we wanted to go). On the up side, I suppose we saw more stuff than we would have otherwise, and without the bother of having to walk too far;
- I was verbally assaulted by mean waiters. Sigh;
- The whole of Nice seems to be currently under construction. Around every corner was more scaffolding, more machinery, more noise of digging and building and destruction, more of whatever noise putting down new tram tracks makes, more repaving and painting and so on. All of which made for a lot of noise and a lot of piles of dirt and a lot of taking of detours;
- Nice and surrounding areas seem to be the other home of Australian flora. I haven't seen so many gum trees in ages;
- I discovered that I have less moral fortitude than I imagined (see another post, possibly tomorrow's), or possibly just that I am a bit of a wimp;
- Monaco is excellent. There is really something to be said for these ludicrously rich tax-haven countries in terms of the loveliness of the surroundings. The beaches there have a far better quality of stones on them (not sand, but not the enormous rocks that you find in boring downmarket Nice either. In Monaco it's more like gravel, but pleasant rounded wave-worn gravel). The streets are pleasantly free of dog poo (also in contrast to downmarket Nice). The boats and the cars are ludicrously fancy (I don't care at all, but even I was happy to stand around gawking. It was also interesting to see how many smart cars and minis there were among the ferraris and lamborghinis outside the casino, which I suppose may have been a stab at environmental friendliness, or possibly people admitting that it's impossible to keep up with the Monaco Jonses).People who don't seem to be working wear suits, or at least blazers and nice shoes with their jeans*. I didn't witness any crime in Monaco, and no one yelled at me. Sadly I got sunburnt there, and kind of exhausted from walking up and down all the ridiculously steep hills, and worn out from following all the rules (don't walk on the grass! Don't have picnics! Don't litter! Don't touch anything!) but it was sooo much fancier than Nice. Kind of like Switzerland, actually, but in a far better way, hahah;
- I saw Australians for the first time in months. They (we) were everywhere, although not as much as English people were;
- I ate some unbearably delicious food. The description of which is hardly likely to do it justice, so you can just take my word for it; and
- Also interesting was my discovery that apparently salade niçoise isn't supposed to have boiled potatoes in it. Weird, because I have never before seen it without them. Also, apparently it has celery in it.
* This "blazers with jeans" look was endearingly reminiscent of my former boss who, on many occasions when he has to dress up, favours the nautical blazer look. You'd fit right in in Monaco, Bob!