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.


.. 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.


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)