Monday, 26 May 2008

Laundry Revisited

I'm less concerned about all the tedious quirks of doing laundry in Switzerland than I was a year ago. I still think that washing in warm water is kind of stupid, but I have embraced the fact that machines here generally don't let me go any cooler than 30 degrees and I just don't care any more. Some cantons are also apparently a squillion times more sensible than Aargau in that the power of our washing machine doesn't seem to go off at lunchtime, but still, doing laundry in this country is a million times more annoying than it needs to be.

Our new apartment is in a building with about 5 other flats, and we have one washing machine between the lot of us. There is no roster, it's all done on a "whatever" kind of basis, where if you turn up and the machine is being used, it's not your turn. This system suits my non-orderly approach to housework. What doesn't suit me is the fact that we have to pay with coins to use our machine. To do one load, you need six 20 frankincent* coins, but for some idiotic reason the machine only takes 5 at a time. So you put 5 in, then 55 minutes later you zip back up the 2 floors, put in another 20, and then 11 minutes later it's finished (although only if you're lucky, I have just discovered. If you're not lucky, you open the washing machine door, slop dirty water all over your sunburnt feet, then have to run back down two flights of stairs, get another 20c piece, run back up two flights of stairs and hope that that will be enough). Which is high-maintenance laundry, in my opinion.

After the fun of washing, there is also the annoyance of drying. In Aarau, as well as driers we had these excellent drying rooms where there was always space on the lines and everything dried in a few hours. Here there is no drier (which is fine because I hate driers) and very little hanging space, all of it in a room not conducive to things becoming dry very quickly**.

*no, obviously they're not really called frankincents, but that is what I like to call them. Although I have just discovered that I don't enjoy it nearly as much when I have to write it down because the spelling is ridiculous. It really should be "francincents", I suppose, as in franc cents, but you would no doubt read that all wrong, and it's supposed to sound like "frankincense" the well known tree residue/gift for babies. It's just a happy coincidence that it also has a hint of "frankenstein" about it
** a bummer when you only have one sheet and you therefore need to do your laundry at the crack of dawn in order for the sheet to dry in time for you to go to bed at night. Actually, we have 3 sheets now, but still the doona covers need to dry before one can successfully go to sleep again. Reto is officially in charge of all bedding/towelling type laundry here (since his schedule is sufficiently flexible that no one cares when he turns up for work), so it shouldn't annoy me, but I always have to nag him or else he would never get around to cleaning anything. And on that note, see also "washing up".

In Case You Were Wondering About My Feet

Yesterday I spent a while sitting in the sun. Now my feet are sunburnt.
I hate weather.
In other news, I also ate more meat this weekend than I have in the last several months combined (possibly). I went to the housewarming party of some friends on Saturday and had a frenzy of eating ostrich and chicken and assorted types of pig product, and then on Sunday we had another barbecue with the in-laws, and ate kebabs (on sticks) made of bits of chicken interspersed with bits of cheese, which was just as weird as it sounds. And yet also quite nice.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Happy Birthday Ivy!

Happy belated birthday to Ivy, who I did remember at the time, but who I haven't got around to giving a cat to until now. Fortunately, because she's only 2 and probably doesn't read my blog, she should never know that her birthday cat was late.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Birthday Continued

We went out for my birthday dinner last night, and it was super. There was the aperitif in the garden (champagne with somethingorother. I'm not really sure, actually, but thumbs up anyway), and there was the super delicious salad with my entree (which was some sort of sheep cheese/mint thingie), and there was the really great duck cassoulet thingie, and the mystery meat item, the name of which neither Reto nor I were familiar with in either french or german (which is bad enough for me who just learnt food items last week, but obviously far worse for Reto who is allegedly an intelligent native german-speaker. And atrocious for both of us because we didn't recognise it when we ate it, but all meat is kinda the same in my opinion...), and then the rhubarb pie for dessert, and all the booze and coffee and and and. Better than that, though, was the cute little kitty cat that was asleep in a chair somewhere in the room,then woke up, wandered around the restaurant and kept jumping on the lap of someone at the next table who had apparently ordered the fish. Health and safety be damned!

Driving Me Bonkers

I don't care for driving. I didn't learn until I was in my mid-twenties, and I've never really considered it to be an essential skill (there is always walking or public transport or other people who just love to drive), particularly here in the Land Of Trains (speaking of which, my train back from my french lesson today was 50 minutes late!! 50 minutes!! That's unheard of. Apparently there was some train crisis between Geneva and Lausanne, and then when the train did arrive, the doors didn't open! Some dude had to come along and unlock them all with a key! A key! etc). Anyway, I did eventually get my license in Australia, sadly after they had changed the rules which meant that as well as the written exam and practical exam, I also had to do two extra written exams and labour under various speed and blood alcohol limitations for years longer than everyone else my age. Not that I cared much, since I never really drove anywhere anyway.

Anyway, since being in Switzo I have heard numerous things from numerous foreigners about how the process of using your foreign license to get a Switzy one is easy as pie, and involves nothing more than posting some stuff off and doing an eye test (which actually could be more arduous than you would imagine for someone with eyesight as perfect (no false modesty here) as mine, because my grasp of the pronunciation of lots of letters in both french and german is a bit dubious. Assuming it's a "what are the letters in the fourth row?" type test. For some reason in my french lessons, having missed the first week, I never really learnt the alphabet and when one day the teacher said to me "You, say the alphabet!" I just made random noises until I got to Z and never learnt the more direct route). Great, I thought. Today I got my assistant (Reto) to look into it all for me, and ...

... he tells me that the rule in this stupid canton is that I have to do a stupid written test. Which is of course totally fair enough, and if I'm going to be honest about it I'd really think that that's not enough because as an uninterested lefty-driver I don't think I would be particularly confident or great at becoming a righty-driver, but I don't want to do another stupid driving test! And I have to do it in french, german or italian! Aaagh.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Bless Me! Grr!

People don't acknowledge me when I sneeze.

I don't think I ever mixed in "bless you" circles until a few years ago, but at a former job in Australia, all my colleagues were obsessive about saying it whenever anyone sneezed. Anyone but me. At first people relentlessly ignored my sneezing, then, as we all got to know each other a bit better, they sort of looked at me questioningly, then later they laughed a bit and asked me what that noise was, and then later they told me that I have the most ridiculous sneeze ever and that I sound like a bird. I think everyone always thought I was desperately trying to smother my sneezes so that no one would realise I was alive or had a pulmonary system, but personally I have never been able to hear any particular difference in how I sneeze and how everyone else does.

Now here I am in a shiny new place where no one knows me and where I don't really share a language with most of the people I spend most of my time with (apart from Reto, obviously), and again it's the stony silence when I sneeze. Everyone else gets a "bless you" equivalent, and I'm just waiting until the day someone feels comfortable enough to snicker.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Does This Mean I'm Not Really 30 Yet?

Well, in general it may have been a lovely birthday (apart of course from getting up at the crack of dawn and going to french and the fact that it was about 10 degrees and so forth), but it all fell apart a bit in the evening when we walked to the restaurant where we were planning to have my delicious birthday dinner (a present from my parents, thankyou very much mum and dad) only to find that Reto's reckless "I won't phone them or make a reservation, we'll just turn up. It's a Tuesday night!" plan was foolhardy. In his defence, he did a surprising amount of grovelling when they told us they had no spare tables, but it was all in vain, and so instead we got takeaway from a Vietnamese restaurant up the road from our place. Happily, and contrary to most of my expectations, the Vietnamese food was really lovely, and the meal was marred only by the fact that my hands had become so numb on the walk back from our non-restaurant meal (which was a good 20 minutes each way, plus assorted bits of dawdling near the restaurant and while I was on the phone being inundated with happy birthday phone calls) that I couldn't really work my chopsticks. What with most of my fingers doing their extremely normal (although not usually in spring) trick of turning deathly white, numb and bloodless, then horribly sore on their return to health.

My birthday dinner has now been postponed until Thursday (we've made a reservation already!). Reto tried to sell me the line that "it'll be even better because you get to look forward to it for another two days!" but no one was buying that claptrap.

Happy Birthday Me!

Happy birthday to me! And also to Ms Mac!
I'm 30 now. Yoicks.
I'm not sure that that is really a birthday cat, but isn't his hat adorable/bizarro/spacey? Or maybe antenna-ey? Or mind controlly?

Monday, 19 May 2008


We went to Milan on the weekend. It rained a lot, but we discovered that the Milanese version of happy hour (it goes for hours and comes with an endless array of delicious, free nibbly items. My favourites were these ace stuffed, crumbed, fried olives, and these zingy little spicy biscuity things) is super, that there is apparently no standardisation of coffee names (I have a hard enough time knowing what sort of coffee I want to order at the best of times, but when you can order the same thing in the same place on two separate occasions, and get something different each time, you know you are dealing with people who are out to confound you. In related news, the wackiest coffee I had was an espresso crema, which turned out to be an espresso (no surprise there) with vast quantities of hardcore foam (not the crema that I would have imagined, which I always thought was sort of brownish and scarce, but then again I'm no expert. The stuff on my coffee was the consistency and colour of beaten egg whites, though, which was odd) and some inexplicable layer of mysterious golden yellow, super-sweet (possibly boozy) stuff at the bottom. This all fitted into a wee espresso cup (well, a big-ish wee espresso cup) and I wasn't expecting it at all. It was lovely, though), and that a holiday involving no planning, organisation or expectations may well be the way to go.
It rained a lot

The place we stayed at wasn't great. It was allegedly all designy and smartypants (and cheap, thankyou very much, and it looked quite nice, but it was surprisingly non-functional. The soap dish in the shower had no holes in it so my soap melted. The pillows were like bricks. The towel rack made my towel dangle dangerously close to the bidet (not that anyone used the bidet because apparently we are united in the belief that they are kind of odd). The lifts, door locks and heating mechanism of the towel rack all didn't work. I think the front desk staff implied that Reto and I are incestuous siblings, because after looking at his ID and then mine they said to me "you have the same surname??" in an incredulous manner. Breakfast was great and plentiful, though, and the hotel was in a good location, so sadly I can't whine too much.

When good pot plants turn bad

In other wacky news, I saw Tilda Swinton while lurking near some old fortress/palace thing and counting stray cats (they were so cute. And surprisingly inept at stalking the pigeons), Milan has more potplants and wacky old-fangled trams than I have ever seen anywhere before, and we came across a rather excellent exhibition on Australian design and innovation at some excellent museum that we stumbled upon while wandering aimlessly.

Just call me a stalker. Or Reto, because he took the photo (after I forced him to)

Who could ask for more?

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Dress Ups

This town is positively a-twitter with monks and nuns. There are monasteries and nunneries all over the place, and for some reason it's always strange to see these people dressed in their old-fangled outfits (long sweeping robes and funny hats and so on) getting around doing normal things, like catching the train or going to the supermarket. Much like it's also strange to see normal people (such as my husband) dressed as army people, hanging around and smoking and loitering at the train stations with their enormous, ridiculous guns. It's like there's some elaborate dress-ups game going on, and I haven't been invited*.

* Not that I necessarily want to be invited to a life of austere chastity, or to one of being trained up to kill people

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Will I Look Insane?

Would it be completely insane to get my (presumably talentless) husband to cut my hair for me? On the "yes" side (as in yes it would be insane) ... well, as mentioned, he probably is talentless at hairdressing. On the "no" side, I hate going to the hairdressers, there is no particular need for me to look respectable/non-loopy at the moment, I have no ability to express my hairdressing requirements in any of the available languages (I even struggle in english, actually) and therefore would probably end up looking just as unlike I want to look if Reto cuts my hair as if any hair professional in this neck of the woods does it. Oh, and hairdressers are idiotically expensive here, so think of all the money I would be saving ...

I asked Reto if he would be willing to do it and he said "no" for a while, then eventually "yes", but I secretly suspect he only said "yes" to scare me into shutting up about it. I am a bit scared. Anyone have an opinion?

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Happy Birthday Olivia!

Happy birthday Olivia!
I hope Egypt is treating you well, and I hope I see you again soon in Switz! Oh, and have a nice birthday!

Happy Mothers' Day, Mum!

Happy mothers' day, mum!

And in other news, my mother may well have liked the botanical gardens market thingie that Reto and I went to yesterday. I have been meaning for ages to buy pots of herbs for our window sills, but the ones they hock in the supermarkets always look so depressed and semi-comatose, and I haven't really been organised enough to look anywhere other than supermarkets yet. Anyway, the other day Reto told me about this botanical gardens market and so yesterday we wandered down to have a squiz, and it was super! They had all sorts of crazy herbs I have hardly even heard of (although possibly that was more because the names were in french/german than because my botanical knowledge is lacking) and about 8 million different varieties of mint, and about 25 different types of organic tomato plants (which we don't have space for) and heaps of different types of chilli plants and all sorts of boring lettucey plants and .. well, a bunch of other things too, but who knows what they all were, and who really cares when you only have 3 crappy window sills (plus a few more that are a bit sloped and that pot plants would probably fall off). We ended up buying some mint (not apple mint or pineapple mint or peppermint or any of the other interesting types, sadly, but the pleasantly reliable one that we have in Sydney that grows relentlessly and is impossible to kill. Or a variety that looks like it, at least), a chilli plant (with green/orange chillis, apparently), some parsley (dull), some sort of basil that is not the normal kind, and two pretty succulent thingies. Aww!

Now all we need is a bunch of pots to put them all in.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

What Do We Want?

We seem to live on the main protesting drag in town. Since we moved in (4 weeks ago?) three protests have passed noisily past our windows (and that's just the ones while we were at home!) first there were the people who were cranky because they had lost their jobs with the train people (or are about to, or something like that) then there were the May Day neo-nazis who seemed to have come here specially for their hard day's protest (and possibly also for the charming scenery) because they were yelling at us in german, which apparently isn't the done thing in this neck o' the protesting woods. Then this evening there was a joint appearance by what Reto describes as a bunch of generic lefties/anarchists/punks/illegal immigrants. I'm not sure what their point was, nor how you spot an illrgal immigrant simply by looking, but they certainly won in terms of numbers.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Convalescent Kitty

Happy recuperating, Dad.

And just so that no one gets the wrong idea, as far as I know my father is not wearing one of these collars. As far as I know he has no desire to lick any wounds he might have. Actually, as far as I know he doesn't even have any wounds.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Next Time I'm In Charge

Late-ish this afternoon (a bit after 5) I said to Reto "do you want to go for a walk?" and he sort of said no, and then he said yes, and so I envisaged us going on a half-hearted wander around the town and then coming home and having dinner. Since Reto knows the area here much better than I do, he chose the route we took, and .....

.. an hour and a half later we were still off wandering through fields in the middle of nowhere, no end in sight. I was wearing an extremely inappropriate skirt and extremely inappropriate boots, and we were sloshing through mud, wandering in forests and mysterious gorges and being sort of lost. Had I been more appropriately dressed, and not hungry and thirsty it might have been really excellent, but I wasn't (and I was and I was, respectively) and so it wasn't. Although, as you can imagine, I did enjoy the complaining.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Am I Becoming More Swiss?

Yes: The other night I cooked Swiss-type food for the first time ever (as long as you don't count all that fondue, or the zopf I once made in Sydney, which personally I don't)
No: I made a very inauthentic version of a very Swiss dish (Zürcher geschnwhatso, which, for those of you who don't know, don't want to read the german entry and/or don't like bothering with links, is a dish with a name it's hard to keep track of (not that it changes or anything, just that it has too many jarring consonants in it to be bothered with) and involves the holy Swiss trinity of meat (veal), dairy products (a creamy sauce) and potatoes (it's typically served with rösti, aka grated and fried potatoes))
Yes: But the recipe I followed was from a Hiltl cookbook, which probably makes it quite authentically Swiss. And even twice as Swiss if you consider that the cookbook was a present from a Swiss friend
No: And I think the fact that it was completely inauthentic made it all the yummier, because really, I can't stand the more standard version
Yes: I made pretty bog-standard rösti to go with it, which gets a big Swiss tick, I think
No: The recipe I followed was veggo, which isn't really within the Swiss eating ethos at all. And not just veggo, but veggo with a decent source of protein, ie. tofu as a substitute for meat (as opposed to the completely lame veggo meals you usually see on offer, not just in this country but all over the place in my experience, that are composed entirely of vegetables or cheese or something, as though legumes and nuts and pulses and whatnot aren't a valuable and vital part of a healthy vegetarian diet. I have quite strong feelings on this topic, and there's nothing I resent more than seeing that the only vegetarian option on offer is some lame "vegetable stack", whatever that is. Note, incidentally, that I am not actually a vegetarian but I am CRANKY NONETHELESS)

So what's the conclusion? I dunno. I really quite enjoyed our tofu geschnthingies, and even Reto enjoyed it (against everyone's expectations. Apparently he doesn't like tofu or mushrooms or onions, which are basically the only ingredients I used apart from cream and flour and stuff). I may even cook it again one day. I would never cook the veal version myself, though, nor order it in a restaurant. Hmm.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Assorted Photos

For the sake of my mother, who really hasn't seen any pictures of our flat or town, here are some photos....
our flat, now with added couch!
our place is up there somewhere, centre-leftish ...
a funicular to take you up the hill. Interestingly enough, it's powered by poo, couterweights of sewerage or something. It smells, but is surprisingly charming in spite of that. Although possibly not for the people who live right next to it (not only because of the smell, but also because patrons of the poo train can look in their windows)
a statue and a tree. pretty.


Stuff we've been up to lately:

Our planned Sopranos-a-thon on Thursday didn't happen because a friend of ours planned to drop in for lunch during a large cross-country motorbike excursion that she was on. The friend is remaining nameless because in the end, owing to the vagaries of weather and motorbike mechanics, she was SIX HOURS LATE (which was actually fine, and it just meant that lunch turned into dinner, but I'm sure I will be able to use it to wring a frenzy of guilt and apologies from her for ages to come, which I will enjoy enormously). Thursday ended up, therefore, being a rather pleasant day of lolling, of watching some group of youthful neo-nazis demonstrating up and down our street, and of seeing the last-ish bit of some cycling race that is going on around here at the moment. Interestingly enough, the day's cycling was won by an Australian chap called Robbie someone, who I have never heard of but Reto tells me is quite famous. Go Team Australia.

On Friday I went on a wee excursion to Zurich and bought a pair of jeans and about 8 tonnes of chocolate. Possibly the oddest thing that happened during that day was when I was walking along the swankier end of the street, and as I was passing Prada a car came screeching to a halt just next to me. Before the car had stopped the passenger-side door was opened, and the woman who was sitting there used her swanky-ish high-heel-clad foot to brace the door open as the car came to a halt. As soon as it had stopped, she leapt out of the car, rushed into Prada and the car zoomed off again. Some sort of fashion emergency, apparently.

I've also discovered that Reto and I have very different policies on butter usage. I scrape it off the top of the block, he cuts a slice from the end. I can't believe I didn't notice this earlier.

Thursday, 1 May 2008


All my best intentions of sleeping in were thwarted this morning, not only by my mock-insomnia, but also by the band (as in group of people with uniforms and instruments) of morons (as in people who go wandering the street at 7am making a racket) marching down our street and making a racket! Morons!