Friday, 31 August 2007


Three years ago today (or possibly three years ago tomorrow, no one is really sure) Reto and I met. I thought at first that he either had a relatively poor grasp of English or of social niceties, because basically the first thing he said to me invoved demanding that I give him money (with the benefit of hindsight I suspect that it was a problem with the latter, because I know now that he is really great at speaking English).

After the initial confusion of thinking that I was being robbed, we had a pleasant evening of looking out for the northern lights (because we were up in the arctic circle at the time) and discussing laundry (which was why he wanted my money), followed by a pleasant week of loafing around, eating a lot and swimming in the icy arctic depths of the Norwegian Sea, followed by several relatively unpleasant years of looooong international flights and tearful scenes in airport departure lounges. And now here we are. Who would have thought?

The other significant thing about today is that it is the day that my immediate family became largely unemployed (again). My father is officially the only one of us with a job (again). Well done on rejoining the ranks of daytime TV-watching scum, Steph (not that I watch daytime TV or am scum).

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Look What I've Got!

Yesterday, and for no apparent reason (except possibly because he didn't give me anything for my birthday this year) Reto gave me a present. Look!

No, it's not a gratuitous shot of my crotch, it's a pretty new belt! And it seems to look a different colour in every different lighting situation. Sometimes the gold is all shiny and prominent, sometimes it looks really pink, sometimes the purple stands out more than anything else. How excellent!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Flat Time - Yay

I'm really enjoying Flat Time (which is what I'm calling it now that the time on everything matches). Reto always sets his alarm to some even time, like on the hour or quarter past or quarter to or whatever, and what the alarm does is play whatever CD is in the CD player for 15 minutes then it turns itself off. As it turns out the local church (which chimes every 15 minutes, all day every day) is also on Flat Time and so when the alarm goes off I always wake up and hear the church bells. And then when the music stops, I hear the bells again (and then I go back to sleep, aah the life of a loafer). It's all so organised. I feel so Swiss.

Happy Birthday Eric!

Happy birthday Eric, who is probably not celebrating getting another year older today so much as he is just hanging around and getting used to having been born. And as he probably can't read these birthday wishes, hopefully his parents or some other literate adult will pass them on (that means you, Deonie).

Monday, 27 August 2007

Schwingen, part 2

... and then on Sunday we got up at the crack of dawn to watch sport. Reto and I rendezvoused with our mock-Swiss friends and went to the SchwingFest. It was hot and arduous, but packed full of typically Swiss entertainment.

Note in this photo the alphorns, and the people standing behind them with white
tops on who are carrying ginormous cowbells, which they sort of clanged into their thighs as they walked, which made a loud and surprisingly hypnotic racket. We also saw flag-throwing,
which looked really quite pretty)

All in all, and speaking as a non-fan of all forms of sport, it really was a fairly fun day. It seems that the aim of Schwingen is to get your opponent onto his back, while simultaneously retaining hold with at least one hand of his hessian wrestlin' nappy. Possibly the most confusing thing about it all was that there were 7 separate Schwinging fields (or whatever they are called. "Circles of sawdust" would be the non-technical term) in the stadium, so every now and then a whole lot of people would cheer even though nothing much had happened in what you had been watching (apparently everyone else was watching the match that you couldn't see because it was obscured by a pole or something).

Anyway, we watched a bunch of wrestling, we got kind of dusty and hot and sunburnt, we saw some large cows, we drank shandies (which was fantastic!), we heard the Swiss national anthem (it seemed hardly anyone sang along, which was surprisingly non-patriotic of them, but then again apparently it has only been the national anthem since 1981), the favourite won the whole thing and then we went home.

Oh, and someone asked me if I was from the Gold Coast. My mock-Swiss (Australian) friend and I were talking and someone leaned over to us and said "where are you from?" and I said "Australia" and she said "from the Gold Coast?" and I said "errr .. no, Sydney" and she said "Sweet as" and then we wondered why anyone would assume anyone was from the Gold Coast. I thought "sweet as" was a weird touch, too.

Badenfahrt, part 2

Well that's another arduous weekend over and done with. On Saturday night we went to Badenfahrt again, and personally I enjoyed it far more the second time around. We met up with a couple of Reto's friends and we ate delicious sushi at a Japanese restaurant (and I had sake for the first time ever, so that was a novelty), we saw some excellent wacky band in a tiny bar by the river (and we even found seats, albeit seats that involved perching on a splintery plank of wood on a slightly muddy hillside, but that really added to the charm rather than detracting from it), and we watched the totally excellent fireworks display that they let off at midnight from the ruined somethingorother (castle? fort?) on the hill in the middle of town. We saw the fireworks from a place that was basically right next to where they were being let off from, which meant you really had to look straight up in the air to see them which provided an excellent and unusal perspective but also gave everyone a sore neck. And it also meant that all the hot ashy residue of the fireworks tended to fall into our eyes, but I suppose there is always a price.

Saturday, 25 August 2007


SchwingFest started today (actually, I think it started yesterday, but whatever) so Reto and I wandered down to have a look around. There were heeeeeeaps of people and it was really hot. We saw a bunch of (prize) cows (including Dobi, the super-prize cow, who sadly wasn't as stunningly ginormous as I had thought), plus a bunch of other (inanimate) SchwingPrizes. It seems that businesses donate prizes, so there were pieces of furniture, coffee machines, tool kits, bikes, skis, barbequeues, a bunch of cow bells (as pictured),and my favourite, a fairly large bonsai bush. Actually, I'm not sure if the bonsai was a prize or if it was only there for decorative purposes, but it was definitely the pick of the bunch.
We also went and watched a bit of Steinstossen, which involves being a big boofy man and throwing big rocks. It's quite simple, really. All you have to do is pick up a big rock, wave it about above your head (for maximum danger in the event of gravity taking over), run at a big sandpit

let go of the rock while simultaneously pulling a funny (tormented) face,

and then, when all the throwing is over and done with, you have to carry the rock back for the next bloke to hoick.

It seems sensible that this sport does not have the equivalent of tennis's ball boys.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Bern Report

I had a really nice time in Bern with Olivia yesterday. I forced her to go and see the bears with me*, she forced me to go to Starbucks with her**, and basically everyone I spoke german to failed to understand me in some way (the worst being a waiter who misheard me and then made fun of me based on what he thought I said. Bastard).

It was lovely though. We wandered around and drank a bunch of coffee and complained about all the same things, and it was fun. I like people I know. Especially people who are all fish-out-of-watery over here.

* Olivia had seen them before and thought it was horrible, which it is, but I thought that the bears couldn't be sadder this time that they were when I saw them last time (which was in the dead of winter and it was all bleak and freezing and cold), and so I made her see them with me so I could have less grim memories. And my memories from this time are far less grim (the bear pit was all leafy and watery and one bear leapt playfully into the bear swimming pool in a cute belly flop type fashion reminiscent of Knut) but it was still kind of sad. Apparently the bears are soon moving from their grim bear pit to a far more cheerful sounding bear park, though, so that's nice.

** Starbucks, my god. I thought she was joking at first,but apparently not. The couches were nice though, and I feel like we got our (overpriced coffee) money's worth by staying there chatting for about 8 years.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Whingy Absenteeism

As it turns out I am likely to be hopeless at blogposting for the next little while while I get back into the swing of having actual things to do for which I have to be punctual and presentable and bring at least some of my brain. By the time I have coped with the stress of these *&^$#ing german lessons and done all my homework and finished with all the commuting and complaining and generic housework (which I am forcing Reto to be far more involved in lately, a plan which I think is coming along quite nicely. Today when I got home the flat was practically sparkling. This could just be because he is fed up with all the studying too and is desperate for an alternative, but that's a gift horse I'm not even going to glance sideways at so we'd best stop discussing it right now), I don't have much enthusiasm left for looking at the computer even more.

Plus of course I am too much of a social butterfly this week to spare the time. It seems I am in a relentless whirl of tripping across the country to visit my fellow countrymen(women)*, across the canton to visit people I hardly know and to eat delicious Indian food**, across the town to watch grown men wearing scratchy nappies and fight over a cow***, and across the room to go to sleep****.

* Olivia in Bern tomorrow! Yay!
Badenfahrt again on Saturday, with other people and more food
*** SchwingFest on Sunday, with my shiny new mock-Swiss (ie. they live here but they're not) friends
**** Self explanatory. Zzz

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Things I Don't Like

I don't like learning german in german.

Because I have been entirely hopeless during the year to date, I am back in german classes, and it's reminded me why I really wish I had been a more diligent student back in my Sydney german-learning days. In Sydney I had the luxury of english-speaking classmates and english-speaking teachers who could and would explain things in english. Hence I never had to learn german grammar in german. Here, though, we can be talking about stuff I already know, but I have no idea what's going on because I don't know how to say "past imperfect" (or whatever) in german. It's relentlessly frustrating.

On a lighter note, I had a dream the other night in which I was at a pub with one of my former classmates from german and Bob Hawke, the well-known former PM. As it turns out (according to my subconscious, anyway), Bob is really quite fun to have a beer or two with. He even laughed along good-spiritedly when Vlad made some crack about Australian children living in poverty. Ah, Bob.

Schwing Update

Aarau seems to be gearing up for some SchwingMania. The Fest isn't on until next weekend, but I gather that yesterday was the beginning of the pre-Fest festivities. Obviously there are all the potentially lewd window displays in shops around town, but in addition to that Reto and I awoke yesterday to the sound of something musical and alphorny coming from the middle of town (we didn't get around to leaving the flat until early afternoon, so who knows what it was all in aid of but I am assuming it was Schwingish). Later we went for a stroll over to the field where they have built the stadium, and some of the temporary restaurants they have built around there are open for business.

The most exciting thing, though, is that tonight on telly I saw the cow that the Schwingkönig person (who wins the competition) gets. It's the biggest cow I have ever seen (I assume those are normal sized people standing there with Dobi. Dobi being the cow). Actually I suppose it's a bull (well, it is. That doesn't mean I'm not going to continue calling it a cow though). I had wondered (and I still do) what sort of idiotic prize a cow is for an event that is not directly farming-related (why would anyone want to win a cow? I'm sure there's money to be made by selling prize-cow (bull) sperm, but as a member of the non-farming community and the sort of ordinary person who might apparently one day win a cow, I have no idea how I might go about either making money out of a cow, or of disposing of one that was not financially viable. Nor would I know how much a cow or its by-product is worth, nor how to have one's cow valued. It really seems like a bit of a white elephant of a cow), but Reto tells me that apparently the Schwingkönig can choose to either take the cow or the cash, the cash being the 10 000 francs that the cow is allegedly worth.
I know which I'd choose. I don't think that cow would be very happy on our balcony, and I also suspect that it wouldn't fit in the lift. I wonder if it would make it up the 8 flights of stairs instead.

Saturday, 18 August 2007


Last night Reto and I went to Badenfahrt, which is this big thing in Baden that no one can really describe well. I suppose it's some sort of festival, and it happens once every 10 years or so (although apparently they are a bit flexible about that), and there is lots of music and temporary bars and restaurants and there are rides and sideshows and things. Before I went there I was describing it to people as being something like the Royal Easter Show but without the woodchopping and the sheds full of pigs and stuff, and now that I have been I suspect that description isn't so inaccurate.

Anyway, I'm sure there are many interesting things I could potentially say about Badenfahrt, but the one thing that springs to mind just now is that one of the sideshow things we saw was a shooting game. I didn't really pay that much attention, but presumably you had to shoot ducks or something to win gigantic stuffed tiger or whatever the Swiss equivalent is. I suspect, however, that a country where half the population is fandangled into the army and has to go and prove that they have decent aim with a gun once a year is not a good country in which to run such a business.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Mmmm ...

I'm looking forward to winter. I think it's far too long since I last had fondue.

Happy Birthday Nick!

Happy birthday, Nick!Okay, so now everyone gets a birthday cat. Until I run out of appropriate birthday cats. Then everyone gets a recyced birthday cat.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Happy Birthday Kim!

Happy birthday, Kim!
(you get the vaguely retro cat party pic)

Monday, 13 August 2007

Clavdivs Quiz

Reto and I have been watching I, Claudius for the last few weeks. Last night we watched the last episode, and who should pop up in it but this chappy: Does anyone recognise the actor? This is a fairly bad picture of him, actually, in terms of looking like himself, but once you know who he is he's easy enough to recognise.

Questions For My Mother

(or anyone else who thinks they might know the answers. Especially since I suspect my mother doesn't read this blog any more)

1. In the Olden Days (ie. the 1950s-ish), did people who were of UK descent but who had lived all their lives in Australia, refer to England (or Scotland or wherever) as "home"? As in, "I am planning a trip home in September", or "My uncle lived to be 93 but he never went home. No, he stayed all his life here in Melbourne"; and

2. In the Olden Days (ie. the 1950s-ish) was "a tray of tea and buttered scones and cakes the universal signal in Australia that the party was coming to an end" and that everyone should therefore go home now?

Sunday, 12 August 2007


Aarau is working itself into a bit of a frenzy about the upcoming SchwingFest. Here is a small selection of the window displays put up in shops around town in anticipation of the event (sorry about all the reflections in the pictures, but they were taken through windows). Don't ask me what any of it means, though. I'm as clueless about traditional Swiss wrestling in hessian sumo pants with milk churns and cows as the next person.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Suzy2, We Love You

There's a new addition to our household. She's called Suzy2 and she's a garlic crusher. I'm not really sure why she is called Suzy2, but that is her brand name or something, and so I cannot be blamed for it.

Reto and I have some sort of bizarre deprivation thing going on in our flat. There's a lot of stuff we don't have (like measuring cups or spoons, or mixing bowls, or a wooden spoon, or more than one chopping board, or a proper tin opener, or a toaster, or a bed that is big enough for my feet not to fall off the end). Some of it sort of makes sense, I suppose (our flat is so small that we couldn't really fit a larger bed in it. Plus we are so unemployed and theoretically impoverished that buying a new bed would be an insane plan at the moment), but to have to do all the cooking by guesswork because we have somehow not got around to shelling out 10 francs on measuring devices is completely nonsensical and annoying.

And yet also sort of charming. It makes me feel somehow virtuous to not have enough stuff, as though I am saving the environment or saying no to relentless consumerism or something, every time I mangle my fingers trying to use a stupid Swiss Army Knife to open a tin, or whenever I chop things up in old breadcrumb and tomato residue (because the chopping board is in such constant use that it doesn't get washed often enough. Good thing I have relatively low standards of hygiene). It also means that actually buying something that we really do need (oh Suzy2!) is fantastic and brings far more happiness than it really should. How I am looking forward to properly crushed garlic, really flavoursome garlic bread (although a toaster would be handy for that), repelling strangers and vampires and coughs and colds with my pungent garlicky breath!

Friday, 10 August 2007

Slow Day

I bought some 99% chocolate when I went to the Lindt factory shop the other day (because I always go a but OTT there and buy things I wouldn't normally). I like dark chocolate, but this is insane. And it even comes with instructions on how to eat it.


A woman says "fair dinkum" on a plane and causes a minor brouhaha (it seems there must be a bit more to it than that, but that's all the is giving me).

Reto is carrying on the Nevil Shute-athon that has swept our flat lately by reading On The Beach (which I got for him for his birthday. Being a cheapskate I tried first to find it in the local second hand bookshop but to no avail, and then to my surprise I found it at the english-language Orell Füssli (bookshop) in Zürich, and to my further surprise it only cost 13.80. Which seems cheap to me. So then I was looking around at the price of other things, and I found Shantaram (and by the way did you know it's being made into a movie starring the hot-or-not Johnny Depp?) for about 20 francs, as compared to the Dymocks price of $35. Hmm) and he (Reto, not Johnny Depp, in case all that parenthetical stuff was too long and distracting) occasionally asks me to translate things from Strine to normal english for him. Yesterday he asked me what "dinkum" means, which I suppose is possibly confusing (not having "fair" attached to it), but as it turns out he didn't really know about "fair dinkum" either.

Sadly now it is probably not long until he incorporates it into everyday language. He has started saying "fair cow" at least a few times a day. Which is funny, because he is hopelessly bad at using german slang (apparently).

Water,Water, Everywhere

As you may know, Switzerland is aflood. I actually didn't know this until yesterday, since I did not hear/read/see any news the whole time that I was in Samedan, until yesterday morning when Reto looked at the nzz and found out about it. We came back to Aarau yesterday and I took a few photos.
I'm planning to go and take more photos for comparative purposes next week (or whenever the water is at its normal level again). The damage that the water has caused in Aarau seems to have been mainly related to the flooding of some of the houses along the edge of the river (I saw a few people taking their muddy belongings out of their flooded cellars and garages and then pumping the water out and back into the river, but most seemed to be fine), the accumulation of masses of trees and branches at bridges and weirs and the electricity station thing that is built across the river (as seen below),and the potentially disastrous flooding of the local athletics field, soon to be home of the stone-throwing competition part of the Schwing- und Älplerfest that you will no doubt read all about here in a few weeks (click on the bit in that link that says "Offnen Sie unseren Trailer HIER" etc.. for a blurb (possibly incomprehensible) and some pictures (entertaining) of what to expect). The ducks and swans seem to be enjoying paddling around in the newly-formed shallows in the grass, though.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Ye Olden Employment Opportunities

I saw a chimney sweep today. He came to clean the chimney of the flat we are staying in. I always thought that chimney sweeps only existed in Mary Poppins or in the 1800s or something, but apparently I was wrong. And in a crushing blow to all the other chimney sweep stereotypes I (apparently) hold so dear, the one today wasn't a pre-pubescent boy, wasn't covered in soot, and didn't call anyone guv'nor. In fact, he drove up in a van and he was a normal sized, clean adult. The only (slight) consolation is that he was wearing black, so I suppose that if I had squinted I might have been able to pretend he was all sooty and authentic*.

* Not that I want anyone to die of soot-inhalation-related disorders

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Birthday in 8 Parts

Well, Reto's birthday is finally over, and various points can be made.

1. I am an excellent and thoughtful girlfriend. I got him an excellent present (it's a board game, which is testament to my powers of patience and self-sacrifice, because I don't really like board games. Or are they called bored games? Hmm. Anyway, it seems quite a good one and I don't hate it yet, although it is only a day later and we have only played 3 times) and I made him a birthday cake. Which was both delicious and fairly childish (and as you can see I didn't make enough icing to cover all the sides. Note also that he did not turn 5. My boyfriend is a sensible age, but I didn't want to turn the cake into an angry echidna with all the candles we would have needed to make it numerically accurate. Actually, I don't think we would have had enough candles, hahaha).

2. Mountains are nice. We went bushwalking on some mountain near here and it was lovely. The weather was nice (sunny but a bit cloudy and with a bit of wind so it wasn't too hot), the view was super, the whole thing was invigorating and outdoorsy and wholesome.

3. Mountainy Switzerland looks a bit like mountainy Australia (if you squint a bit and don't pay too much attention to what the altitude is. It also helps if you are above the tree line in both countries). Sadly I don't have the photos of our trip to Mt Kosciuszko here to prove it, but I might look into adding some later. For now, you'll just have to take my word for it, unlikely though it seems.

4. The Swiss are very civilised. While up on this mountain (and we spent basically the whole day at a higher altitude than the highest point in Australia) we went to two restaurants. There was another that we could have gone to, but we couldn't be bothered walking the few hundred vertical metres to get to it, and so we missed out on another overpriced coffee and piece of cake or sausage or similar). It actually reminded me quite a lot of many of Reto's stories of being in the army ("We went for a 6 hour hike. Well, it was 3 hours to a restaurant on top of a mountain and then we had lunch for an hour and then we walked back. The next day we went to a water-slide park").

5. Orthodox Jewish people are funnier than you might imagine. They always seem to wear such sensible hats for not-getting-sunburnt purposes, but up on the mountain apparently baseball caps are the headwear of choice. As well as white sneakers (which was sensible), plus all the normal orthodox Jewish attire. Possibly there were some undercover orthodox Jews up there too, but they weren't as noticeable as the ones who only traded in the hats and shoes.

6. I have unfortunate skin. I embraced my usual "spending time in the sun" ensemble (which basically means an umbrella and long pants, as well as several generous slatherings of 30+ sunscreen. "Australian standard" according to the bottle)

and still ended up kind of red at the end of the day. Sigh.

7. Samedan is tiny
(which wasn't news, but it was reaffirmed with a semi-aerial view) but the airport is super. It's just over the river from the bulk of the town (as you can perhaps tell from the pic) and there aren't really any fences keeping you from wandering about in it. In fact, there is a walking path leading to it and a bench so that you can sit there and look at it. We watched a few planes take off and land there the other day (which is NOWHERE NEAR AS NERDY AS IT SOUNDS, because they were all small planes and gliders, which was unusual and wobbly and fraught with potential danger), which was a welcome change from the mini golf debacle.

8. And finally, Swiss cows are very shiny and clean. And apparently potentially dangerous.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Happy Birthday Reto!

Happy birthday, Reto!

All these birthdays are starting to wear me down. I'm officially not buying any more presents.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

We're All Going On A Summer Holiday

Reto and I are having a holiday. Yes, a holiday from being unemployed slacker types, but a holiday nonetheless. We are staying for a week or so in Samedan, which is in the southeast of Switz, close to St. Moritz. We arrived yesterday (after an arduous trip on chockers trains) and so far have done basically nothing except lounge about eating a lot and reading the horribly overpriced Guardian (international weekend edition, which costs about $7 and is unavailable in Aarau so I only read it when I go somewhere else on the weekends) out on the balcony:

and wander around town goggling at all the wacky buildings (you're really going to have to click on the photos below to appreciate the buildings in all their glory. The patterns and drawings are scratched on in an organised graffiti sort of way).

Next on the agenda is a game of mini golf, which I fully intend to win.

UPDATE: I lost. By quite a lot, actually, although we both did very badly.

Happy Birthday Mum!

Happy birthday, Mum!

Saturday, 4 August 2007

I Like Foreigners

Last night I hung out with a gaggle of native english speakers for the first time since I came to Switzerland (I'm not counting the 6 weeks when I was back in Aus, and I am also not counting all the times I have hung out with Reto's English brother-in-law, because those exceptions would ruin the dramatic impact of the sentence. And plus they sort of don't count because Australians in Australia can't really goggle appropriately at the Swiss as foreigners here can, and Reto's English brother-in-law and I are always far outnumbered by Switzies).

Anyway, it was super. It was super not only because they were lovely people, but also because finally I heard people pronounce "Coop" (a supermarket) and "Manor" (a department store) the way that I want to pronounce them, because I could attend a social function without having to kiss everyone thousands of times (although as it turns out I kind of enjoy all the kissing, but I would prefer to be more selective about it than Switzerland forces me to be), because we could all start our glasses of wine without ensuring strict adherence to the rules of cheersing, and because everyone laughed at all my jokes (although possibly they were just being polite, but I am prepared to live with that possibility).

Thursday, 2 August 2007

The Funny Side Of Fanaticism

Apparently it seems to be something of a tradition for Swiss neo-nazis to invade the Switzerland Day celebrations at Rütli meadow and be all racist and fanatical. This year apparently they weren't all as organised as they could have been, and some of them intending to get there by boat turned up and found that there were no more places available on the ferry, and so they tried to make their way across the lake in inflatable rafts ("Gummibooten", hee hee), but they were impeded by water police who squirted them with high pressure hoses. Which is all kind of wacky and funny and entertaining, a pleasant difference from the things you normally associate with right wing extremists.

Switzerland Day

Reto and I went to his sister and brother-in-law's new (and I mean brand new; they picked up the keys that day) house for a Switzerland Day barbeque, which was great. The house, in proper Swiss style, has a bunker to save them all (and 2 of the neighbours, apparently) when the revolution comes (although recent slackening of the rules re having to keep a year's supply of tinned peaches and cervelat (seemingly indestructible sausages) or whatever in your bunker means, I suppose, that if the revolution does come they will all have to survive on vast quantites of wine (because everyone uses their bunker as a cellar) and then they will have to resort to cannibalism. Which I guess would be less confronting if you were drunk, but still. They really should make sure they have a little camping stove or something, because I'm sure it would be much nicer to eat a cooked person than a raw one. Maybe some herbs and spices would be good, too).

Anyway, the party was super. The garden of the new house is full of fruit trees, so I spent a lot of time picking and scoffing blackberries and raspberries, wondering about making wine out of all the grapes, trying to talk the new owners out of chopping down the plum and cherry trees, and wondering what "holunderbeere" is in english (elderberry, apparently, but since I have no idea what they look or taste like, I couldn't tell at the time). As it turns out, though, no one else is as interested in the edible parts of the garden, so I left with vast quantites of blackberries and raspberries that were too ripe to leave on the bushes (yay!).

The other highlight of the night (apart from the fruit) was the fireworks. As I have mentioned, people buy their own fireworks and let them off whenever they want to, but there are also organised firework events in the towns. From where we were we had a huge view over lots of different towns, and so from about 9pm onwards (when it was sort of dark-ish, or at least enough so that people were starting to set off their firecrackers in earnest, and to light their insanely ginormous bonfires) we had a 180 degree view of pyromania at its prettiest. The best aspects of which, in my opinion, were the massive bonfire in a field nearby (too far away to really appreciate, but it definitely brought back the memories of last year on Switzerland Day, when I had just arrived here for a holiday and I was taken, all jet-lagged and bedraggled, to see this HUGE fire that the town was putting on, that was ENORMOUS and HOT and only about 10m away from where a bunch of cars were parked. No one else, apart from the other token foreigner, seemed to think this was strange), the official fireworks display of the closest town (which was pretty and organised and much grander than all the individual efforts), the huge fires that were burning on big mountains in the distance (because of all the smoky haze you couldn't actually see the mountains any more, so it looked as though there were fires suspended in the sky), and the fireworks that someone had brought to the party, that were let off in the backyard (especially the last one which seemed to be sort of broken and kept flaring a bit then sputtering and half dying before flaring a bit again, and ended up as a few pathetic (but still kind of enormous) tongues of flame shooting up a metre or so then sort of collapsing on the lawn. Fortunately nothing got set on fire that shouldn't have).

Wednesday, 1 August 2007


Well, it's Switzerland Day (which is not what they call it here, but it's what I have decided to call it), which apparently means it's fireworks time. For the last week or so shops have set up stalls in the streets to sell fireworks, and apparently the rule is that you are only allowed to let them off today. This rule has been ignored a bit for the last few days, although weirdly enough some people seem to have been letting their fireworks off during daylight hours (ie. when you can't really see them). It seems that last night was an official fireworks time too, though, because as I lolled around reading my book and trying to ignore the TV show that Reto is so obsessed with watching (which, by the way, it's impossible to do when you live in one room) I heard all this racket outside, and for the next hour or so we watched fireworks being let off in 4 or 5 different places that we can see from our window. Which was lovely, and marred only by the fact that there was an almost a full moon shining quite a lot of light on the whole thing. What a hardship.