Thursday, 10 December 2009

Parenthood - Sort Of Imminent

For me, being frequently nudged in the tummy by Unborn Baby is the biggest spur to realising that parenthood is coming. For Reto, ikea-ing together the crib we bought the other day (and then lugged home on the train, which was not as inconvenient as it could have been but still, grr) was his kick in the stomach.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Reto might have swine flu. That's a home diagnosis, but he's kind of flu-ey, quite feverish (although it's hard to tell how much because our thermometer seems to be pathetic, but he's reliably about 2.5 degrees warmer than me) and spends all his time loafing around in bed, overdressed and complaining about being cold. Fortunately my doctor went a bit hysterical about how he thought it was a good idea for me to have the vaccination (unlike the previous time I asked him about it, which was 6 weeks or so before, when he suggested it was a bit of a waste of time. I take the fact that he changed his mind as a good thing) and so I did have it a few weeks ago. I'd better not get sick.

Update: he seems to be much better today. His temperature is now the same as mine and his conversation is much better than it has been for days.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Big Scary Spiders, Swiss-Style

We found a big spider on the wall the other night. Reto panicked a bit (but not so much that he was incapable of taking a photo of it).
(with my hand for comparative purposes. Note also that the spider is completely non-threatening looking and could easily be nothing worse than the world's biggest daddy long legs)
As I always do, I took the humane option and caught the spidey in a container. The only convenient outdoor place to get rid of it was on the dead-ish basil plants on our windowsill, but since that window is opened pretty much every day, it didn't seem like the best option. So, possibly less humanely, I chucked the spider out the window.
If you were walking along the street 3 floors below our house the other night and a spider landed on you, I'm sorry.

Attacked By A Bear

Last Saturday we spent a pleasant afternoon in Bern, going to a museum, dawdling around and seeing the recently-opened bear park, the much less offensive replacement for the horrible bear pit. If we'd gone this week instead, it may have been kinda less pleasant.

Some lunatic climbed over the bear park's fence this afternoon and got into the enclosure of one of the bears. Unsurprisingly, he was attacked by the bear. A policeman shot the bear. The bear and the man are both alive but understandably injured.


Monday, 9 November 2009


I've lost so much enthusiasm for this blog that I can't even rustle up the ability to announce this in an interesting way, so, to put it simply...

I'm pregnant! Quite a lot, actually (almost 5 months) but even if you saw me every day you probably still wouldn't know unless I'd told you (or if you came over to our house and saw the assorted books about pregnancy and ultrasound pictures lying around). I don't look pregnant, I didn't spend my days vomiting sadly into the toilet, and apart from the multivitamins and VAST numbers of iron tablets I'm taking every day (actually only 2, but there's a lot of iron in them), everything's pretty much business as usual. Except that I have a tiny baby girl living in my insides. Due in April. So that's nice.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Laundry (Again)

Annoying: someone leaving their half-done load of laundry in the only machine in our building for a day and a half (and counting). I tried to take it out today so I could do my washing, which was how I discovered that the load was only half done - water poured out all over me and the floor when I opened the door. Not that it's all that important that I get my laundry done (I have plenty of clean clothes), it's just annoying. As Swiss laundry always seems to be.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Forgotten News

Annoying festy things I forgot to mention:

The man who made an introductory speech before one of the films I saw and told us that the movie had a happy ending. Great. Just what everyone who's about to watch a movie wants to hear.

The time I left a very crowded Q&A after a movie, snuck out the convenient exit just near where I was sitting, only to find that the door at the end of it, which opened into the lane beside the cinema, was unopenable because some moron had parked their car in front of it. A security guard got the car owner to come and move it and so I was freed, but never mind the fact that these emergency exits (which I think was what this was) are there for a reason. I was pleased that when I tried to open the door I shoved it the 7cm or so that it would go before it ran into the car and that I was responsible for making a bit of a dent in the side of the car, and for getting some door paint off the door and onto the car. Idiot.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Festy Round-Up

I've spent the last week hard at work going to the Zurich Film Festival every day and watching a lot of movies. Nineteen of them, to be precise, and I'm surprisingly glad it's all over now. High points, low points and points of note include:

My undoubted favourite movie of the fest was Sergio, a documentary about the all-round impressive (unless you were his wife) UN dude who was killed in Iraq in 2003. Apparently the rest of the festy-goers didn't agree with me, because it didn't win the audience prize for a documentary, but had I been the only voter it definitely would have. Someone in my screening even gave it a standing ovation, so maybe he would have been allowed to vote too.

Feature-film wise, my favourite was a really grim Romanian/English movie called Katalin Varga which also didn't win the audience prize, but had far more charm than the really grim Russian flick that did.

I patriotically went and saw the only Australian movie on offer, Samson and Delilah, and it was also pretty grim. And dialogue-lite. And sort of slow moving, at least for the first half, but definitely worth it in the end. Plus I think we all took away a clear message from it - sniffing petrol is bad. In case you didn't already know.

The festy people really need to work on their ticketing skillz. Buying my festypass involved being sent to the wrong place twice, having gone to the right place in the first place and been told authoritatively that I was in the wrong place. I eventually got hold of my festival pass (which let me see all the films at the festival without having to pay more for anything), but then I still had to get individual tickets for the films I wanted to see, and I was never allowed to get a ticket for anything more than a day in advance. Which meant that every day I had to queue up and get tickets, and really, of the 7 times I did that, only once or twice did I manage to be given the right tickets without any drama. People gave me tickets to screenings on the wrong day, they told me it was impossible to reserve tickets for that movie (which was never true!), they told me that my pass only let me see one movie a day, they gave me ticket reservations instead of actual tickets (which meant I had to queue up again and get the actual tickets later). None of it was a real problem, but it was all very annoying.

All the movies (bar one) had english subtitles. Oh, and maybe another one which was partially in english and partially in russian and had french and german subtitles the whole way through. That is great, in my english-speaking opinion. It was also a very pleasant surprise when we stumbled upon the Lisbon film fest in May this year and found that everything had english subtitles there too.

I hate reserved seating and the Swiss mania for sitting in your reserved seat. And also the enthusiasm of the ticket sellers for allocating you a seat in the middle of everyone else (behind/in front of/next to people, even when 90% of the theatre is empty). Which meant I rarely sat in my allocated seat and lived in fear of someone coming and telling me to go away. Which they never did.

Some people are nuts. Reto came with me to one of the films I saw, a reasonably full screening of somethingorother, and our seats weren't next to each other because I hadn't bought the two tickets at the same time. There was a woman sitting between us. Reto asked her if she wouldn't mind swapping seats with him, and she said "okay, since they're only showing a DVD [as opposed to reels, I suppose] I guess it doesn't matter if I'm not exactly in the middle", and then she looked sort of grim-faced, as though it really did matter. Quite a bit.

Those chocolates that Globus gives you with your coffee are great. And I have a new-found respect for Brezelkönig as a meal-substitute, although if you buy their pretzels at 11pm as you're rushing for the last train home, they tend to be kind of old and dry and blergh (but still better than nothing).

Oh, and all that Roman Polanski bizzo - whatever. I find it sort of odd that so many people went so bonkers about saying how he deserves his freedom and he has paid his debt to society because .. well, look how good his movies have been. Whatever high profile guests the fest invites next year might be well-advised to look into any outstanding international warrants against them before booking their flights, though.

Thursday, 24 September 2009


When Reto got home last night:

Him: I've got a present for you!
Me: [understandably suspicious] Really? One you deliberately got for me or is it something someone else gave you?
Him: ...
Me: Did someone give it to you at the train station?
Him: No, it's better than that...

He hands over a nice little box of fancy handmade biscuits

Me: Ooh, yummy!
Him: A guy at work gave them to me.
Me: Why?
Him: Because I let him borrow my pants*.


* Reto has a suit at work for the occasions when he needs to look respectable. Apparently his (similar-sized but slightly taller, hee hee pants that are too short) colleague doesn't.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Electric Tea, Anyone?

A friend gave me a book a while ago about how to be more environmentally friendly when cooking. There's lots of interesting recipes in it, and all sorts of guilty-making statistics about how inefficient ovens and stoves are and how we should all be using toaster ovens instead, and then there's the very peculiar section on "electric teapots".

"Mention an electric teapot and most Americans are clueless. But to the tea-loving British, electric kettles are everyday appliances..."

And so on, about how kettles are great for making hot drinks and boiling water for making couscous and rehydrating mushrooms. Seriously? Kettles don't exist in America? I always thought it was weird that Reto's family never had a toaster, but no kettles?* Is it really true?

* Actually, now that I think about it, they don't have a kettle either. Which makes me wonder if it's us kettle-owners that are the odd ones out. I mean hardcore green cooks.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Yesterday I saw a blurb stuck on a tram window about how not to get swine flu (or any sort of flu, I suppose, but I guess swine flu was what inspired it), an ad on telly about how not to get (swine) flu, and a 12-step set of instructions in a museum toilet on how to wash my hands thoroughly.

Other than that I had a delightful day that was in no way blighted by the spectre of disease and death. We went to the Tinguely museum in Basel (which was sort of bad timing because it's mostly closed at the moment, preparing for new exhibitions which are opening next week. Still better that going to see the Van Gogh exhibition at the Kunstmuseum, though, because oh my goodness there was a massive ticket queue there both times we went past. Reto and I saw the exhibition on the easter weekend, which you would think would be a moronic time to go to something like that, and it was pretty crowded when we were there, but apparently the last weeks before it closes are much worse.), the high point of which was a toss up between this (the Meta-Harmonie 2, a giganto machine with all sorts of drums and keyboards and cymbals attached which, unsurprisingly, makes a bit of a racket when you press the "go" button and not in a delightfully musical way, either, in case you were getting your hopes up. More in a random banging of drums way) and lunch, which was veal with proscuitto and parmesan cheese and a red wine risotto, and although in general I completely disapprove of the mixing of meat (as in two or more types at once), this was ridiculously delicious. And the salad was great, and the coffee was great, and the restaurant itself was also charming. And then we went for a pleasant stroll along the river in the afternoon sun and watched children and dogs and the occasional adult frolicking in the water, and then we almost froze to death in our bed overnight when the temperature suddenly dropped about 45 degrees (possible exaggeration. I was forced to close the window, though, which I normally never ever do). So that was mostly delightful.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Not a Man

As I may have mentioned, I subscribed to french National Geographic a while ago, in a vague effort to inspire myself to read things in french more, and to look at all the pretty pictures. Getting them to send the first edition to me was a nightmare, because after about 6 weeks of nothing in the letterbox and several annoying-to-write emails (because they were in french) from me, followed by several annoying-to-receive emails (because they kept telling me that my address doesn't exist and the magazine is therefore undeliverable) from them, several editions turned up at once, and since then they've arrived regularly each month and there are no more dramas.

Unless you count the fact that they've suddenly become confused about who I am. The first 4 magazines that I got were addressed to Madame Robyn Surname. The most recent one was addressed to Monsieur Surname Robyn. Why? Why would they suddenly decide to change my name and my gender for me? Why? Why? I used to find this whole gender confusion thing that all these idiots over here have with my name funny and inoffensive. Not any more. NOW IT IS RELENTLESSLY ANNOYING. Just stop it, people. Grr.

Actually Still Summer

In spite of what I said the other day about it being like autumn these days, it's not really. I'm still happily getting around in tshirts and putting on sunscreen and not feeling cold. So imagine my surprise when I went to Coop today to buy an avocado and saw VAST QUANTITIES of christmassy biscuits offering themselves up to me in the biscuit aisle (actually it was the chocolate aisle. They always put the seasonal biscuits there instead of in the biscuit aisle, which seems odd)! Yes yes, everyone knows that supermarkets go mental putting out their hot cross buns in January, but really! It's still [here in crazy upside-down world where the seasons are not only at the wrong time of year but they don't even change on the right days either] summer! And not in a sensible summery Australian christmas (where seasonal biscuits are not invited) kind of way, either!

Anyway, all these giganto bags of my favourite version of pfeffernusse (the ones without the crappy chocolate coating on the bottom) were gazing out at me from the chocolate aisle and I thought to myself "This is ridiculous! It's still summer! That's half a kilo of biscuits that Reto doesn't like (he only likes the zimtsternen and I think they suck) and I'm never going to be able to restrain myself from scoffing the whole packet and feeling sick" and passed stoically on by with only my avocado to console me. Which I think was the right decision, but if I end up with a repeat of last year's debacle, where they eventually stopped selling my biscuits and only sold the crappy chocolate-bottomed ones before I had managed to have a scoffathon, I'm going to be VERY ANNOYED.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Hello Autumn!

The temperature is no longer in the 30s (it was really only last week that that happened), I noticed some trees turning autumny the other day, and the idea of a fondue is positively appealing. Yay for the end of summer! I realise that I whined constantly for 4 months or so about being cold and how I was looking forward to seeing the sun again, but I can't kid myself for long. I hate summer, and good riddance to it (although these ridiculous season-changing dates here means we do still have a few more weeks to go).

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


I was watching "My Name Is Earl" last night when I realised that "uno" (as in the card game) is an actual word and not just a made-up name. Considering that I went to italian lessons when I was 4 and spanish ones when I was 24 and that, although I didn't stick with any of the lessons for very long, I am still FULLY COMPETENT at counting to at least one in both of those languages, you'd think I might have made some sort of connection at some point, but no, apparently not. Possibly the fact that we always pronounced it (the card game) "you-know" might have had something to do with throwing me off the scent.

Television, hey? It teaches you stuff.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Grr, Facebook

Facebook kinda sucks. It's recommending a friend for me, a woman who I met in Norway six years ago and who I've emailed once or twice since then (and I ran into her walking across the harbour bridge one day in Sydney some years ago. Apparently she was in Australia on holidays and she was leaving that afternoon on, coincidentally, the same flight as Reto. This was back in our long-distance days, so Reto was always coming and going, but still. What a coincidence. I was surprised we recognised each other, actually). Anyway, an email or two and years later here she is being offered to me by Facebook. I wouldn't have thought I even had her in my current email address book (I swapped emails a few years ago and I wouldn't have thought she would have made the list to come with me) but I guess I do and I guess Facebook made a note of her at some point and never threw it away.

I feel a little bit like I invited Facebook over for a nice cup of tea once and it hid in my cupboard and went through my stuff forevermore instead of leaving. Grr.

update: now they're recommending me some woman I've never heard of, have no friends in common with and don't seem to share anything else with either (like the country we live in or come from or anything).

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Happy Birthday Steph!

That's some very poor wrapping. Speaking of which, Steph, have you got the present I sent yet?

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Impressing The Relatives

My inexplicable french relative (which is to say, I don't know how to describe my relation to her. She's actually Reto's relative, probably my second cousin once removed or something, although I'm not Victorian enough to know what that actually means) and her two grandchildren turned up at our place fairly unexpectedly yesterday, and so our plans for going to see Los Abrazos Rotos at the completely excellent local outdoor cinema were thwarted for the sake of being tourist guides and having a nice dinner up the road (the fact that there are at least 4 more movies we want to see at the openair cinema in the next few weeks is a bit of a balm.).

Last time I met my inexplicable relative and her grandchildren (which was also the first time I met them, as well as being before I was related to them. R and I weren't even engaged then! Aah, the olden days) was a few years ago in France, at which time my ability to speak french was minimal to the point of entirely absent. We spent our time smiling well-meaningly and forcing Reto to be the interpreter. This time, however, I wowed everyone with my ability to be an adult and carry on a sensible conversation. It's remarkable how heartwarming it can be to have a 9-year-old compliment you on your impressive language skillz (although then his slightly older sister had to tell me what the word for a dam wall is, which detracted a bit from my sense of pride. As did the fact that the 9 year old was almost impossible to understand because he speaks soveryveryfast).

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Dangerous Incompetence

Well, after numerous pointed comments from my disappointed fans (hah) I've decided to make a tentative foray back into the world of responsible blog ownership and actually post a post.

We're going on holidays the week after next (Scotland!) and, as often happens, our plan is to rent a car and drive around without giving anything much thought. As a result of everyone's distaste for planning holidays we haven't bothered to actually do the car renting until just now, and apparently there are no automatic cars left in the whole of the country. Since we long ago decided that I'm the designated driver whenever the driving is to be done on the left, that's not ideal. I learnt to drive in a manual, but that was a few years ago* and since then I've done relatively little driving at all and I've only driven a manual once (which was mostly successful but I did stall us across both lanes of traffic and just next to a bend on the fortunately quiet street my parents live on). Add to that the fact that the last time I drove a car was more than a year and a half ago and that I've never been very enthusiastic about driving, and .. well, it all makes for a bit of pressure, really.

Fortunately Reto has agreed to share the driving burden, but he's never driven on the left before, and is a bit concerned about the idea of changing gears with the wrong hand. And I can't think when the last time he drove a car was, but not within the last 2 years as far as I can recall.

Watch out, Scotland. Although I'm sure it will all be fine.

* not actually that many, because I didn't bother learning to drive until I was about 26

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Happy Birthday Dad!

Now that you're 64, I guess we'll find out if mum will still need you, still feed you etc. I would be surprised if you started taking holidays on the Isle of Wight, though.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Why The Swiss Are Odd (=Not Like Me)

Much as it's always possible to carry on about the stereotypes and how Switzerland is so different and everything is so clean/organised/punctual etc here, I'm not really a big fan of these generalisations and I don't really find them to be true anyway (although it was kind of funny the day the two Swiss women in my french class both instantly shot their hands in the air when the teacher asked "so who thinks punctuality is important?" and everyone else was sort of ambivalent. Oh, apart from the Japanese woman, who said that it's better not to arrive at all than to be late because being late is just so rude).

Anyway - "Switzerland, don't believe the stereotypes", is my experience. But two things that always strike me as being odd here (and it's entirely possible that I'm just extrapolating this from"things Reto and his family normally do" to "things ALL Swiss people do ALL THE TIME") are:
1. You often don't get enough cutlery in restaurants. It doesn't always happen, and I'm sure in fancier places it never happens, but I often find that you sit at a table with each place set with a single knife and fork, you order an entree and a main meal, your entree arrives and you eat it, and then you see your (Swiss) husband putting his used cutlery back down on the table so that it won't be taken away with the (now empty) entree plate, saving it for re-use with the main course. Really? They can't give us more cutlery? I suppose that if you do have your cutlery taken away that the waiter will bring you some more for your main meal, and who knows, maybe that's actually what happens normally, but I'm so in the habit now of saving my first lot of cutlery that it hardly even seems odd any more. I was kind of surprised to have to explain it to my family when they were here visiting in Dec/Jan.

2. I suspect Swiss people have a different serviette-using policy to me. Firstly, no one here ever puts their serviette (napkin?) on their lap when eating, which I was always under the impression was the polite thing to do. The main point of difference though, becomes clear at the end of the meal when my serviette is back on the table and all scrunched into a ball after I've finished using it (not that that implies I'm using it excessively or eating with my fingers or dripping food all over the place or generally making a mess. I don't think I am). Then you look at the serviette of Reto and you can hardly tell he's touched his, although he has. He has wiped his mouth/fingers/whatever with his serviette and then folded it into a nice neat rectangle, usually with the dirty bits not showing although that could be a coincidence, and put it back on the table where it was before the meal started, and it doesn't look like it's been used at all. Seriously, you hardly even see a crease in it. Which can be problematic if you come from the "slacker" school of table clearing and generally only take away the dirty things (leaving clean stuff there for the next time).

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Happy Birthday Deonie!

Mmm, birthday cake with added Omega 3.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Post

Something stupid is happening with our letterbox. There's never anything in it. Well, none of the things I'm waiting for, anyway, one of which (a thing about my upcoming french exam which I theoretically should have received last week or so) is potentially inconvenient, the rest of which (magazines and newspapers I've subscribed to. I've given up on the newspaper, but it was only a free trial offer thing anyway, which apparently the newspaper people weren't so concerned about as to actually bother to send to us, but I've also subscribed to and paid for french National Geographic (which makes me sound a bit loserish, but there you go) and if they don't start sending it to me I will be very annoyed indeed. Which will be annoying because it means I'll have to write cranky emails in french, and I don't want to do that. And I bet I can't bully Reto into doing it for me either).

Stoopid post. No wonder no one uses it any more.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Twice in two days (that's today and yesterday) I've seen teenage (probably?) girls wearing the supremely unattractive combo of:
a shirt in the theme of a flanno but made of cotton and not flannelette, usually with some sort of sparkly vibe to it too. Note that this shirt is normal shirt-length, ie. sort of bottom-skimming;
unattractive faux-leather belt;
opaque-ish tights, by which I mean opaque around the calves, more transparenty around the thighs; and, and I think the next point is key
no pants. I mean nothing over their tights.

Today it was quite windy and so I confirmed that the girl waiting on the other side of the pedestrian crossing from me was not wearing pants (I gave her the benefit of the doubt for a while and assumed she was wearing tiny tiny shorts), and also that her tights were of the "control top" type style, ie. where the fabric is thicker at the top.

I realise I just had a birthday and am OLDER THAN EVER, but does me thinking that this is the stoopidest trend ever make me into a sad old loser? It's bad enough that famous people don't wear pants from time to time, but teenagers? Shouldn't they be at school?

Friday, 22 May 2009

So What Have I Been Doing?

Since I obviously haven't been chained to my computer lately, what have I been doing? Getting my hair cut so it's ridiculously short, for one thing (see photos on Facebook if you actually know me). Sitting around waiting for the library to call, for another. We started watching Twin Peaks a while ago, having found the whole series in the fairly excellent audiovisual section of the library here. As far as I can remember, it comes in the form of 3 DVDs (or 3 boxes at least; maybe there was more than one DVD in each box, I don't remember), and we had no problem with the first and the second, but some ******* borrowed the third one just as we were about to, so we waited patiently for a few minutes and then we reserved it (which means that the person who currently has it gets an email from the library, not asking that they return it asap but just saying "there are other people waiting" and presumably implying that they be considerate). That was about a month ago now. We are the only ones in the queue. You can only borrow DVDs for 2 weeks at a time, and I don't think you're allowed to renew them. I have forgotten what happened in the forst 2 DVDs now. Bastards.

We've also been in the Paris, Je T'Aime queue for about 6 weeks (honestly, I can understand it might take a while to watch 10 episodes of TV show, but a movie? It's two hours, you watch it all at once and then you return it. That takes a week at most, and that's assuming that the only time you can get to the library to return things is on Saturday. For some reason the idea of "after hours" slot thingies doesn't seem to exist here), and now, having finally got through the first season of Six Feet Under, some person borrowed the first 2 DVDs of season 2 on the very day that I was going to go and get them. Grr, I say. Grr.

Happy Birthday Me!

Well, after some months of relative blog slackness, I've decided to give me a birthday cat. Apologies to all those others during April and May who had cat-free birthdays (that means you, Lidia, Daniel, Tina, Olivia, Ivy, Phil, Roy Orbison etc).

So happy birthday me (and Ms Mac, whose blog I won't link to because it's gone private these days, who I graciously deign to share my birthday with. Or perhaps she's the gracious one, since it was her birthday first), slightly belatedly. You'll all be pleased to know I had a fab day.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Crazy Foreigners

I discovered the other day that apparently it's only us who say "do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do". Everyone else (and note that my poll only involved ukrainian, russian, portugese, colombian and french people, not actually the rest of the world) apparently says "si", not "ti". Huh. I asked Reto later and he said he would say "ti", but he also wasn't really sure if he'd been infected by The Sound Of Music or not.

And then we sang the song.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

When my parents were here in December, we all went to Rouen and visited the grave of my great grandfather, who died near there during WW1. On telling my mother-in-law about it some time later, she expressed surprise that any Australians had been killed in the war because she didn't realise we were involved. We were all surprised that she didn't know.

The other day I was telling my french teacher about the trip, and she asked "But why did he die there?". "Errmmm, because he was a soldier" I said, and she also was SHOCKED to hear that Australia had been involved. Apparently she must have thought he was on holidays or something. I was surprised that she didn't know (and then I gave her a big tedious lecture on Australia's continuing links with England and the fact that so many Australians signed up to be soldiers because of the desire to travel and have an adventure, which I imagine was fairly different from the motivation of french soldiers. Which I quite enjoyed).

It always comes as a surprise to find that the rest of the world thinks of us so little (except to say how much they want to go to Aus on holidays and how they think it must be some sort of paradise and "Why are you living in Switzerland when you could be living in Australia? What's wrong with you??"). Are we really so irrelevant?

(the military part of the cemetary in Rouen. Some of it, anyway)

Friday, 1 May 2009

Well Someone Has To Do It.

Congratulations/commiserations to Reto, who rejoins the world of the living dead, I mean working dead, I mean fully employed (actually his new job is only 80%), today. On May Day, which is apparently unusual/appalling/ironic (or something). If only we had a public holiday today too (like Zurich does, and possibly other cantons too, but I can't be sure) then I wouldn't have been woken up at 6.30am. Although I might have been woken up at 7am anyway by the marching band that marched past making a racket for no good reason. Grr.

Zombie cat, with job

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Well, in spite of my earnestly good intentions to write a nice post about Lisbon and how super it was (and it was!), I'm going to possibly thwart myself a bit, or possibly save myself from being a complete slacker, by giving y'all a bit of an edited highlights list now. In no particular order:

The sun! Not that the weather hasn't been quite nice here lately, but getting back yesterday and finding it all cold and rainy and grim (and even snowing in places! Not our places fortunately, but it has been &^%^$#$ing cold) was depressing, to say the least.

Gum trees! And bottle brushes (in flower)! Normally the only place you ever see Australian flora is in Australia (although apparently there are tons of gum trees in Israel, and I saw some in Monaco and the south of France last year) so this was pleasantly nostalgia-inducing. I like gum trees.

The architecture, and particularly all the pretty tiles on the walls of buildings. Also, the lovely cobbled streets, decoratively and attractively cobbled, not boring run-of-the mill cobbling. Although those streets were slippery at the best of times; I hate to imagine how they'd be in the rain. The tiles were very lovely though, and I have any number of photos of them that I could (and possibly will) share with you.

The portugese tarts. Although funnily enough, I only ate about 2 of them the whole time, but it was nice to know they were there. And as it turns out they're delicious sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon.

The ease of public transport use. The metro is fab. I've never liked buses much, but who needs them when you have a well-running train system?

The IndieLisboa film fest, which just happened to start the day after we arrived! We ended up seeing (choosing based on language, because the blurb we found had nothing about what the films were about, just when they were on and where they came from) an American doco called Tyson, which we assumed would either be about Mike Tyson or the evil chicken-growing corporation Tyson (disappointingly the former, but it was still really interesting), a programme of short films (two from english-speaking nations, one Finnish and two Dutch. We were thinking that we might have some chance with Dutch (or at least Reto would) because it sounds kinda german-ish, but happily they were all either in english, without dialogue or subtitled into english (and portugese, obviously)! The hardest one to understand was the New Zealandish one!) and a French flick called Avant que j'oublie, which we were all prepared to watch in french but it was subbied into english too! And each ticket only cost 3 euros 50! Cheap!

The beach! We paddled in it and it was freezing.

The shopping! We hardly did any of it, but I managed to rustle up a few tshirts and they were so cheap. Possibly because they're from sweatshops or something, but I won't think about that. Although I should.

The food! For some reason we ate Tibetan food more than anything else, and it was lovely. And as it turns out Portugese wine tastes kinda Australian.

The fact that everything was so easy. Everyone spoke english or french, the public transport was great, it was easy to find our way around and nothing was a drama.
And that's the list. At least as far as I can remember it now. If I'd been more organised I would have gone for a better ending.


Living In The Past

Hmm. Reto just called his mum, who was preoccupied with babysitting her new(ish) grandson and therefore not paying proper attention to R's (undoubtedly) scintillating conversation. At the end of the call, she said "Well, have a nice dinner and say hi to Tina for me". Erm, that would be Reto's ex girlfriend then. From about a million years ago, admittedly, and who I've since stolen from him (as in she's my friend now, not his) but still.

Good thing I don't have any mother-in-law issues that need a bit of extra fuel. Not to mention jealous ex-girlfriend rage.

Swine Flu


If you can't be bothered clicking on that, the DRAMATIC story is that a container of swine flu exploded on a train just outside Fribourg. The LESS DRAMATIC version is that it was a strain not dangerous to people (apparently).

We're back from Lisbon, by the way, and it was SUPER.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Call Me A Sad Old Whiner, I Deserve It.

I was just out at the shops and I saw a huge queue of people outside fnac, waiting to buy tickets to the Paleo festival (which go on sale in a few hours. Actually, right now, but it was a few hours ago that I was at the shops). And that's why I don't like festivals. The boring queueing required (and if it's not for tickets it's for toilets or food or drinks or tickets to buy food or drinks with (great system, whoever came up with that one, making everyone queue twice for the same thing) and the implication of competition to get stuff (I assume the tickets sell out quickly) and having to sit in mud (or on the floor of a shopping centre, not that I would have a problem with that) or in the relentless sun getting sunburnt. Fun fun fun.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

French and Portugal and Facebook (not in that order)

Well, I've just wasted my evening away doing lame quizzes on Facebook, and apparently I should live in Balmain, I'm Jen Garner (whoever she is), I'm a "bible scholar" (random guessing seems to suffice) and the "what hair colour should you have?" quiz is broken. Let's hope I haven't been embarrassing myself as a blonde all these years. Sadly I gave up at that point and so I may never find out if I married the wrong person, or what the name of my husband will be (I bet it's not "Reto", though, which suggests maybe I don't need to do the other quiz).

In other news ... not a lot. Today someone in my french class apparently had a pressing need to learn how to write a formal letter (like for a job application or something) so we spent an agonising hour or so talking about where to put your name and address and where to out the recipient's name and address (which I'm pretty sure is the opposite of what I would consider normal, although I can't really remember what the normal way is anymore) and all about the "formule de politesse", aka vile grovelling about how you hope that this person who you're writing to is showered with good fortune in every aspect of their life and how you feel blessed to receive even the scantiest percentage of their attention instead of just saying "best wishes". Honestly, it was the most offensive thing I've ever heard. I suggested that it's perfectly possible to be polite and respectful without both demeaning yourself and sucking up in such a blatant and implausible manner, and the teacher said that everyone recognises it's just formulaic and that it doesn't matter as long as you just do it too, and I said it was the opposite of everything I stand for and she sort of grudgingly said that's okay too (possibly just to shut me up). I'm willing to wish people "mes meilleures salutations" but that's the absolute limit. And that's about it.

We're going to Lisbon tomorrow for a few days of holidays before Reto has to return to the workforce (did I mention that? He left his last job at the end of Feb and has been happily unemployed for the last 2 months (mooching around in my french classes with me for a significant portion of that time, which made me less than happy, but that's a different whinge-fest) and now we're going on a final celebration of spare time before he's shackled once more to the grindstone of his new job, which starts on the 1st of May). Hello portugese tarts and ... Vasco da Gama, and .. well, port, I suppose, but someone told me today that there's some other port-like beverage that comes from the south of Portugal, so hello that drink. I may bring photos when I return.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

A Nice Day

I had such a nice day today. Reto and I went to Zurich for a spot of loafing and a change of scenery. It was sunny and delightful. We went to a design museum and saw a bunch of wacky designy things, then had a rather lovely lunch and coffee in the park outside. We did some very low-maintenance shopping (which I got fed up with after about 5 minutes, which is just what I always anticipated and it saved me from having to go to the trouble of actually trying on any boring clothes that I wasn't going to like anyway). We loafed for ages in a bookshop (which culminated in me buying a book on french grammar, not so charming but nice to have). We had a Mövenpick icecream (pear for me, which was delightful; raspberry/strawberry for Reto, which confirmed the superiority of my choice). We loafed for ages at the Chinese gardens down by the lake (oh the serenity, if you don't count all the kiddies running around playing hide and seek, nor the dead carp I saw in the pond) and read about life in a Thai prison (not so good). We went out for dinner at Hiltl (veggo restaurant that everyone's a big fan of) with our Zurich-dwelling Australian pal Sarah. Which was delightful not only for those reasons, but also because our waiter got the impression that Reto and I were both proper german-speakers (in spite of me not saying a word in german) and that Sarah wasn't, and he kept bringing her english menus and speaking english to her and speaking german to the rest of us. Which was funny, because my german is so abysmal as to be practically non-existent these days (although I'm okay at understanding it, I'd be hard pressed to make a sentence that didn't turn french within a word or two) and Sarah's totally down with the lingo. It's nice to think that other people assume I'm socially competent, though.

And then we went home.

You Sexy Thing

I read a thing in 20 Minutes this morning about how women are likely to rate men with certain professions as more attractive than other men, and men are likely to rate women with certain jobs as more attractive than other women. No surprise there. But what are these jobs? Well, women apparently prefer men who are architects, and men prefer women who are doctors or "working girls" (which was how it was written in french, ie. in english and in inverted commas).

Erm, so that's prostitutes then?

Monday, 13 April 2009


About a week ago, Reto started reading some pop-psychology book about how he can be a better person and improve his life. At the same time, I finished (re)reading The Ethics Of What We Eat, and decided (as the primary shopper/cooker in the house) that we should be far more ethical/vegetarian in our food choices. Fortunately Reto's book told him he should be more of a veggo too, so since then it's been tofu and chickpeas galore chez nous (which it already was, but now Reto's much more enthusiastic about it. INcidentally, I've also been assiduously choosing the organic/fairtrade options, and I now do our regular shopping at 3 different supermarkets (which is incredibly annoying but makes me feel smug and virtuous. I suspect I might start feeling less smug as spring and summer march on and it gets hotter and I get more and more annoyed at dragging my stupid canvas shopping bags of fairtrade bananas and tinned tomatoes all over town and up and down our 3 flights of stairs)).

Anyway, shopping-wise it's all going well at the moment. The main down-side is that Reto is taking his self-improvement thing waaaaay too far and making me feel like a slob/grot/scoffer. First he started drinking a glass of water with lemon juice in it each morning. Then he stopped having sugar in his porridge and started having dried fruit instead. Then he stopped scoffing chocolate (which he LOVES!), and started requesting half-glasses of wine instead of proper-sized ones. The final straw was when he bought a heart rate monitor and a pair of hideous shorts and took up jogging (he's only been twice so far, but he seems so uncharacteristically enthusiastic). I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be the earnest nutritionist/alternative health care bore in our family. I think I'm losing my sense of purpose.

Netiquette Problems

I'm having a bit of a dilemma. One of my dearest friends, who is all new to blogging and thus full of enthusiasm in a way that I can only dimly recall (note my absence of posts, and her outrageous enthusiasm for writing something not only new but also usually quite thoughtful and entertaining all the time) has tagged me in a modern-day-equivalent-of-a-chain-letter (albeit one that is more flattering than chain letters ever were and which doesn't threaten me with BAD LUCK FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE if I refuse to send it on) and I just don't know what I should do. Actually, I sort of do. Common decency seems to indicate I should acknowledge it, do the questions you're supposed to do and then pass it on, but ....

The thing is, though, that the tag thing is something about how fabulous my blog is. Hmm. My blog which I rarely write anything on these days, and when I do it's normally more on the humdrum tedium side than the fabulous side (I found my pyjamas, by the way. They were in the laundry basket. No idea how they got there, but I like to think that perhaps Reto did pinch them so he could wear them, and then he chucked them in the washing. Thanks for that, Vlad!). Fabulous? Hmm. I feel like an impostor.

And the other thing is that the "and answer these questions!" part is where I'm supposed to list 5 things I'm addicted to. If there's something I've realised, it's that moving away from my country and culture has not left me pining for the fjords (so to speak). I'm not one of those people who packs their suitcase full of Vegemite and Cherry Ripes in order to survive the long cold winter (although that being said, I do have Vegemite and Cherry Ripes in the cupboard, but I haven't really touched them in ages. In fact, I should really give away the Cherry Ripes before they go off. Anyone interested?). I'm much more unconcerned than that. I do find having backwards northern hempisphere seasons constantly unsettling, but I don't know that I would say I'm addicted to the opposite. Oh, there's always the internet. I couldn't live without that. Wearing jeans. Porridge (although that's more of a fad, and one that is likely to die off soon now that spring is here, stupid reverso-seasons). Hmm. Tinned tuna, perhaps. I do love a nice salade niçoise or a tuna pasta or a tuna salad or a tuna lasagne. Perhaps water, too, lame as it sounds (not only because I'd obviously die without it, but because all other thirst-quenching options, like fruit juice or soft drinks or iced tea or whatever, are kind of repellent. I wouldn't turn up my nose at a green tea/black tea/coffee/boozy option, though, but they're not for thirst-quenching purposes).

Okay, maybe I am addicted to some things. Maybe I am fabulous. But that's as far as I'm willing to go. I'm sticking to my long-standing "anti chain letter" stance and not passing this on at all. Anyone who thinks their blog is fabulous should feel free to go for it, though.
Thanks, Ange.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Mystery. By My Standards, Anyway.

I've lost my pyjamas. It's mysterious. I was wearing them yesterday morning. I had a shower. I'm sure I would have picked up my jammies from the bathroom floor and chucked them on our bed after that, but ... they're mysteriously not there. Or anywhere. Our flat has a total of about 3 rooms, so there really aren't many places where they could be, so why can't I find them? Why? Why?

In related news, I also can't find my easter bunny, which Reto has hidden (in plain sight, apparently), which is VERY ANNOYING.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009


When I was at the supermarket this morning the checkout woman actually congratulated me on having minimised the number of plastic bags I used (because, non-Swiss people, here you have to weigh your fruit and veg yourself and then stick the stickers onto something. Which, in my opinion, can be the fruit and veg if you only buy one piece (like a single pineapple, although be warned, pineapples don't cope well with stickers), but otherwise it really has to be on a plastic bag, with said f&v in it). I always put my potatoes and carrots and zucchinis and whatnot in the same bag and then slather it in stickers, which normally earns me a glare from checkout chicks, who apparently find it outrageously inconvenient to have to scan the same bag more than once (oh, the horror). So this morning's experience was a very nice change.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

I Am My Mother

I've turned into my mother, and not in a good way.

During my youth, it was always my mother who was responsible for getting rid of bugs in the house. Unfortunately my mother has a "live and let live" policy towards creepy crawlies, so my sister and I were instilled with the belief that you really have to catch the stupid spider or whatever and throw it outside instead of just spraying it with something horrible and toxic and moving on. Anyway, my mother is a real expert at throwing bugs outside. She shows no fear whatsoever, even in the face of the biggest spiders you can imagine.

After we left home, my sister and I lived together in Sydney for ages, and we both became a bit more proactive about bug catching (although I'm willing to admit I was always more wimpy about it than she was). We may even have had a brief flirtation with Mortein (only against cockroaches!), and I definitely went through a long phase of denial (one of the rooms in our house was a particular haven for huntsman spiders, which are so enormous and horrible that my main strategy against them was to close the door to that room and not go in there again for as many months as I could manage).

Now, in the brave new world of married life, I've somehow become Bug Catcher Number One. Not that this is even remotely surprising, since Reto has a pathological fear of everything that's not human (that's a complete overexaggeration, but he has a major bee phobia, which is funny because a) he is frequently spotted cowering away from something that you can't see, which is odd, and b) his dad is a bit of an apiarist and as such his garden is chockers full of bees all the time). Anyway, Reto's a big wimp and I have to be all tough in the face of danger (and bees). Happily, this isn't at all hard in Switzerland where, in spite of the non-existence of fly screens (which is ridiculous, by the way), there's rarely a bug in sight. The other night, though, I was brushing my teeth and there was a pitiful cry from Reto in the other room and upon investigation I found that he was scared of some incredibly small, possibly wounded, bug that had taken refuge on the wall. While I was off getting a plastic container so I could throw it out the window, it vanished mysteriously. And that's about as exciting/(scary) as it gets.

A huntsman spider. Hopefully we'll never see one of these in Switzerland.

Saturday, 21 March 2009


Just when I was being all cranky because we were being ignored by a waiter in my current favourite cafe ever (first he didn't come to take our order FOREVER and then he didn't bring us our order FOREVER, which, since the cafe was mostly empty and we'd only ordered coffee and a slice of cake, was pretty rude) he noticed that he'd ignored us and came over, apologised ridiculously profusely, brought us all our stuff and then insisted it was on the house. Which was completely unexpected, and really rather lovely.


Something stupid's going on with our telly. Because we live in frenchy-Switz we have the stoopid french version of pay TV, and so, unlike the german-livers, who gained something ridiculous like 9 extra english channels the other day, we seem to have lost Film 4. Actually, we might not really have lost it, but it does seem to have vanished from our TV guide thing. Not that I should be encouraged to watch more telly, but if we were going to lose a channel, why couldn't it be one of the ones that just seems to she Antiques Roadshow all day every day?

In other TV news, I've just found Buffy on a french channel! It's like homework and fun all at once!

Friday, 20 March 2009

On The Bookshelf

I've recently finished reading my first ever proper book in french. By which I mean something that was written for adults, and didn't have any pictures in it (all those Asterixes and Tin-Tins don't count, apparently). Bonjour, Tristesse, in case you were wondering. I feel a certain sense of achievement.

And now that that's over, I've possibly lowered the tone a bit by moving on to the His Dark Materials trilogy, which may be considered children's books. Or maybe "young adult". And I'm reading them in english (and by the way, I bought them for the bargain basement price of 1.50 chf for the three at my favourite Swiss second hand bookshop, which is so outrageously cheap it must be worth mentioning).

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Festy cont..

These Switzies, they're so foreign.

Going to the movies here is weird enough what with the allocated seating, different ticket price for different areas in the theatre, intermissions, and outrageous enthusiasm for dubbing instead of subtitling. Actually, I've found that only the dubbing part of that is relevant lately (maybe I'm just going to the right movie theatres, but I haven't had an intermission in ages), but I think all the years of indoctrination with allocated seating might have had a permanent effect on the movie-going habits of many Swiss folk. In my experience, ticket-sellers at Swiss cinemas, when they have to allocate seats, tend to allocate everyone into the smallest space possible. Even if there are only 10 of you in the whole theatre, you'll all be wedged into the middle, nary a spare seat between you, and your Charming Swiss Companion will be surprisingly hesitant to agree to move with you to other seats so that you can have some elbow room. If, unlikely as it is, you do happen to use your initiative and move to a seat other than your allocated one, you can be sure that someone will come in and say "excuse me, you're in my seat". Everyone cares that much about being where they're supposed to be.

Even now, in the brave new world of "sit where you like! All the tickets cost the same!" a lot of people can't bear to see a seat in the middle go to waste. At pretty much every movie I've seen in the last few days (which is about 10) I've seen people come into the (usually mostly-empty) theatre just as the lights are going down, spot a single reasonably-central spare seat (usually with coats/scarves/bags on it) between groups of other people, and squish past everyone else in the row to ask "is that seat free?" rather than just taking a slightly less central seat that perhaps has spare seats around it. I'd rather sit at the end of the row and have a bit of room to myself and be able to whisper annoying commentary to my Charming Swiss Companion (that's Reto, by the way, not some Mystery Swiss Companion) without annoying other people as well, than have the "best" seat in the house. Apparently no one agrees with me.

Sunday, 15 March 2009


The Fribourg film festival started yesterday! It's an annual thing, with a general theme of movies from asia and south america and africa. Last year, while anticipating this year's festival and when I was much crappier at french than I am these days, I was a bit worried that it might all be a bit french (language) and inaccessible for me, but happily I have discovered that pretty much all the movies are shown in their original languages and sub-titled into english. Wackily enough, there is also the offer of simultaneous translation into french for many films, which involves a translator sitting in the back row of the theatre, and her french translation of it all being available on headphones that you can get upon your entry to the theatre. Which is something I've never seen before at the movies, and no doubt extremely handy. And also kind of annoying, because in quieter moments (like when there is text on the screen and no sound) you can hear her muttering away in the background.

So far we've seen Terminal Island (an american flick from the 70s or so, which is in the festival under a "revanches de femmes" theme, although I'm not really sure if the women in the film were actually the agents of their own revenge or if they were there more to take their clothes off a lot and be rescued by their menfolk (rescued from the other menfolk, whose intentions were nowhere near as gallant).

And then we saw Garapa, a doco about malnutrition and starvation in the slums of Fortaleza (a town in northeast Brazil). Which was relentlessly depressing, as you'd imagine, and really interesting. "Garapa" is the name of the sugar water that people give their children to drink when they have no other food available, which seems to be an awful lot of the time, in spite of the government's "zero hunger" programme which seems to involve giving money for food and/or milk for children under a certain age. While the lack of work/money/food is obviously a major problem, one of the more interesting bits of the doco for me was near the end when the filmmaker asked his subjects if they wanted to have more children (more than the 11 that one family already had!). Some of them sort of said "no", but overall the mood was more one of resignation; that there's nothing you can do to prevent it, that you're equally likely to have another baby whether or not you use contraception, and that if you do have more children, you will always find a way to feed them. But of course that way is frequently with nothing more than sugar and water, which really isn't doing anyone any good. Lordy it was depressing.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

No Vampires On Me

I just had a nice bowl of porridge for brekky. Nice until the last mouthful, anyway, when it turned into pure garlic. I'm a big fan of garlic, just not first thing in the morning, apparently.

I think the moral to this story is not to use the same chopping board to cut up the almonds that go in my porridge that Reto used last night when he made garlic bread.

Saturday, 28 February 2009


Yesterday I had lunch in an Indian restaurant in Lausanne with a friend. We were chatting to the waiter and he asked me if I was English. "No", I said, "I'm Australian" and he said "Aah, that's why you sound like Ricky Ponting". As it turned out, what he meant was that I speak incomprehensibly quickly, not that I talk about cricket a lot.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Look What I Made!

I made a crocheted blanket! For me! And it only took me about 4 months!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

How Complicated Is A Teapot?

More than you'd imagine, apparently.

At our Excellent Breakfast Frenzy at our Swanky Anniversary Hotel, there were about 12 different types of tea on offer, all loose leaf. There was a plethora of teapots,
(sort of like this)

some of them with tea leaf straining thingies inside them,

(pretty much exactly like this, but inside the teapots)

some without, and there were a bunch of tea strainers like this

(but less fancy. With the strainer and the thing you rest it in, though)

next to the teapots as well.

I've never really noticed people here drinking much tea at all, but people were going for it very enthusiastically at breakfast and in a variety of confusing ways. Basically, everyone wanted to use the outside-the-teapot strainers as inside-the-teapot leaf holders (which they were all wrong for and it meant you couldn't get the lid on your teapot and it unbalanced the whole thing). People were taking their inside-the-teapot strainers out and replacing them (inside the teapot!) with outside-the teapot strainers. I saw one woman put an outside-the-teapot strainer into her teapot then fill the teapot with water and put the lid on it and walk away. With no tea in her tea! I mean, drinking hot water is an odd but acceptable habit (hello, Mum!) but does it really require a teapot and strainer?

I thought everyone ws being weird and misinformed until later when I had a cup of tea from a cafe place there (ie. staffed by hot beverage professionls who should know how these things work), and the waiter brought me my teapot with an outside-the-pot tea strainer in it. Which has led me to wonder if I'm suffering from some ridiculous cultural confusion where all these loony Europeans do things ridiculously. By which I mean differently. By which I secretly still do mean ridiculously.

Anyone have any ideas?

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Happy Anniversary, Everyone!

Ange and Jonno, specifically, and me and Reto too since it's always nice to share in the furriness of a celebratory cat.

Happy Birthday Tawny!

I haven't managed to put this up in time for your time zone birthday limits, but in mine I've still got heaps of time! I hope your day is still going well!

Happy Anniversary, Me and Reto!

We've been off swanning about in swanky hotels in celebration of our first wedding anniversary over the past few days, and lordy isn't it sad to be home again? Highlights included:

The terrifyingly narrow/snow-covered/winding road we had to take to get there. Which was flanked on one side by the edge of a mountain, and on the other by an enormous yawning chasm that ended in the iciest-looking river you've ever seen. Fortunately we were protected at most times by the uselessest of safety barriers, which was about shin-height (ie. not much help when a bus wants to topple over the edge) and made of wood. Wood, for crying out loud. Old, pathetic wood that has been out in the weather for too long. Oh, and the horn thing that the buses honk when they approach blind corners and want to warn any oncoming traffic that THE RISK OF A PLUNGY, ICY DEATH IS IMMINENT is not charming and reminiscent of childhood, as Reto seems to think. It's alarming and noisy. If I was an oncoming driver I'd probably panic, veer to the wrong side of the road and either die a horrible death in the chasm or t-bone the side of the mountain and block the road meaning that the bus would have to reverse its way to safety. Great.

The food. Oh, the food. We had 6-course dinners both nights we were there, and we had giganto breakfast buffets that sadly I don't think I really did justice to, and we had lots of delicious home-made chocolates in our room that they kept replacing while we were at dinner (not that you get back from a 6-course dinner and think "hmm, what else can I eat?") and there were apples everywhere, really crispy crunchy ones, which was lovely. And .. oh, at dinner one night I did a bit of a salt degustation. There were about 8 different types of salt on offer. I always enjoy buying fancy salt, but it always takes me forever to get through a packet of it so I can never really compare them and tell which ones I like best. At dinner the other night, though, I tried the murray river one from Australia, one from the red sea (guess what colour it was!), one from the black sea (guess what colour it was! I don't think I could seriously use black salt on a regular basis, though. It looks odd), a hawaiian one, and a few from France. The conclusion, however, was disppointing - they all tasted kinda the same. The Australian one wins for reasons of patriotism, though, and also because it was such an attractive shade of pink. Now I just have to finish this stupid enormous packet of Maldon salt I have at home before I can buy some. Other memorable food moments included the baked saffron icecream with sweet pesto (which was weirdweirdweird) and the cheese trolley.

The thermal pools. It was a thermal pool hotel place that we went to, so you'd hope the thermal pools would be a highlight. And they were. We went midnight-thermal-pooling and we went crack-of-dawn-thermal-pooling and we went civilised-middle-of-the-day-thermal-pooling and it was all fantastic. The low-point being after you get out of the thermal pool and you realise the water has sucked all the moisture out of your skin and hair and that you've wildly underestimated your conditioner and moisturiser needs for the weekend. Seeing all the hotel guests wandering between their rooms and the pool in their hotel-supplied bathrobes was funny, though (when do you ever see people in bathrobes?), as was seeing the same strangers you'd seen in their togs all day in the pool wearing real pants at the next table at dinner.

Oh, and I discovered that I can't float. I'm sure I used to be able to when I was a youngster. Reto spent lot of time floating about all over the place (although he seems to think he can only float when he uses his special floating technique of stretching his arms out above his head. Not above as in upwards, obviously) and being smug while my legs sank and I got water in my eyes a lot. No one likes a gloater!

All the romance was nice. Which you would hope, for a first-anniversary holiday.

And then there was the bus back down again. After all that new snow had fallen (and continued to fall and made the road EVEN MORE TREACHEROUS. But we survived, and even better, we forgot to take the bottle of fancy champagne that my sister and her boyfriend got for us for our anniversary (not that we would have had time to drink it in between all the swimming and eating anyway), so we've decided to drink that next Fridy in celebration on Reto being unemployed! Because he quit his job and his PhD a few months ago, in case I didn't mention it. We'll be a no-income family, and what better way to celebrate that than with a bottle of Moet? Hurrah!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Wheel Of Fortune

I've just been watching the French of Wheel Of Fortune on telly, and what a cultural experience it was! It was like going to KFC in another country and finding that they offer a different type of sauce or something when you order the nuggets. Not that I go to KFC in Australia, and not that they have KFC here (as far as I'm aware) but once long ago I went to KFC in England and I'm sure they had a surprising Indian twist to their menu there.

Anyway, I've learnt that French people are apparently cheats, either that or the French wheel (of fortune) is ridiculously heavy. One of the competitors, an old lady, apparently had some terrible arm disorder that prevented her from spinning the wheel much, but the other two (able-bodied youngsters) didn't really spin it much further than she did. Most of the time they just gave it a gentle nudge so as to stay as far away as possible from bankruptcy. Boring.

The Lovely Assistant was sort of a departure from what I'm used to, and sort of the same. She was tall and blonde and flashy (normal), but she also looked sort of plastic (in a plastic surgery way. When I say "sort of" I'm being extremely generous. She looked extremely plastic) and she was at least a head taller than the host (who was small and featureless but not at all charmingly Tony Barber-ish). And her dress looked more like a nightie than a dress. At the end of the show, she danced with the winner (who, strangely, looked a bit like the Lovely Assistant, but shorter and less flashy. Just as blonde though)

The French version has a dog. He doesn't do anything, but he's always there watching.

And, most unexpected of all, the French version of Wheel of Fortune is educational. I now know that there's an expression "entre la poire et le fromage". I don't actully know what it means, but I like to imagine that it's the French equivalent of "between a rock and a hard place", except the French think that being caught between two soft places (like a poached pear and a camembert, perhaps) is the worst possible scenario. Or maybe it's like being caught between a beurre bosc and some parmesan. Which could well be delicious.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Alone At Last

It's our first weekend spent without hordes of my relatives hanging around since the end of November (!) and we've spent it doing absolutely nothing. Which has been quite nice. And it snowed all day today, enough to look charming but not enough to be annoying when we ventured out for a coffee and a piece of cake.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Happy Australia Day!

Happy Australia day! We haven't really done anything to mark the occasion, but Reto did make his own little public holiday (ie. took the day off work) and I'm not at french, so that's in the right spirit.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Confusion At Coop

Why is it that Swiss checkout chicks (if you can call them that; I think the average age might be a bit too high) are obsessed with tying knots in my bags of veggies? There I was at the checkout yesterday with a (scandalously unknotted) bag with various carrots and zucchinis and things in it, and the checkout woman glared at me and aggressively double-knotted the bag (so enthusiastically that I actually couldn't get the knot undone again when I got home) before she scanned the bar codes. Possibly there's a small risk that a carrot might fall out while they're doing the scanning (oh no!), but why do they care? Is it really worth getting all narky and knotting the bag for the sake of those 2 seconds or so while my bags of veggies are in their care?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


In french today we spent aaaaages talking about punctuality and what it means in different countries and when it's polite to turn up a bit early and when it's polite to turn up hours late, and after this looong discussion where we all acknowledged that there is usually lots of scope for disagreement and individual differences and the fact that rules really aren't set in stone*, the teacher asked us "who here really thinks that punctuality is important?", and instantly, absolument sans hésitation, the two Swiss (german) girls, and only them, shot their hands in the air and said "me!".

And then we had a loooong conversation about cultural stereotypes.

* except possibly in Japan, it seems, where, according to the Japanese chick in the class, it's less insulting to phone up and give an excuse and reschedule a work meeting than turn up 15 minutes late

Monday, 19 January 2009

Things That Were Annoying Today

1. Ice. Ice has been driving me nuts for a few weeks now, ever since it snowed a lot and no one cleared the streets properly and we've all been slipping and sliding all over town ever since. Today I went out the 'burbs of Fribourg (to get my Swiss drivers license if you must know, tick for New Year's Resolution Number One. And even better, atrocious misreading of (what as it turned out were actually atrociously ambiguous) instructions meant that I didn't even have to do the theory test! Reto had to phone up to confirm that, though. It really was very unclear on the website. To think I wasted all that time unnecessarily learning the road rules when actually I was free to take my bung eye and my habit of driving on the left and a total ignorance of the road rules and get straight out there!). Anyway, there I was in the middle of nowhere (walking to the RTA-equivalent, which apparently isn't the done thing. They have the biggest carpark ever) bumbling around on the footpaths-masquerading-as-skating-rinks like a moron. And getting rained on at the same time, funnily enough. Warm enough to rain,not warm enough for all the ice to have melted.

2. Morons waiting for the train who have 2nd class tickets, but who get into the 1st class carriages (because it's always quicker to get into the 1st class carriages because there isn't a huge queue of people in there waiting to get out) and then go through the door from there to the 2nd class carriage that I'm queueing (with a million other people) to get into, thus managing to get in and get a seat first. Cheats.

3. Having an argument about something remotely serious in french but being unable to express my opinion in a relatively coherent way because my vocabulary is dismal. I think I may have ended up being construed as a militant vegan, which would have been fine but it wasn't what I was saying at all.

On a more positive note, I got my Swiss license (yay!), I managed to have a decent argument in french (maybe it was just everyone else misunderstanding me, not me being incomprehensible), I didn't break my leg on the ice, it wasn't freezing, I had a rather excellent salade nicoise for dinner, I got something pleasant in the mail (rather than just boring letters from my health insurance, which is what it usually is) and Reto didn't hog all the blankets last night. Which is the first time in ages that that's happened. Assidouously poking him in the ribs all the time every night seems to have finally paid off

Friday, 16 January 2009


I've been BETRAYED.

Unlike almost everyone else I have ever known, I've always had great vision. No glasses, no squinting at computer screens, no whining about having to buy prespcription sunglasses, no agonising over that laser surgery.

Anyway, I've just been off for an eye test for my driving license here, and I discovered that MY RIGHT EYE IS PRACTICALLY BLIND. When I had to read the letters on the sign, I could read the bottom line with my left eye no worries, but with the right eye I had to move up a line (and even then I had to guess a bit).

I'm actually finding this really quite disturbing. It's like the beginning of the end. Next thing you know my hair will turn grey and I'll have to have a hip replacement.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Happy (Fake) Birthday, Me!

It's the anniversary of my new surname! Or at least, I've decided it is since it was today a year ago that I picked up my new birth certificate. So happy fake birthday me!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

No, This Post Doesn't Come From A Duty Free Shop

No, enormous novelty Toblerones haven't vanished from the face of the earth. Someone gave Reto's mum one for christmas, and then rather than eating it herself, she gave everyone a triangle to take home. Here is ours (with ACTUAL PEOPLE for reference*):

Apparently it weighs more than a kilo.

If only I liked Toblerone.

* Don't be fooled, they're actually the king and lady king from yesterday's hard-won religious bakery item

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


In an effort to show my parents a little bit more foreign strangeness before they left, I decided to buy one of those couronne des rois things at the bakery today (bready item being sold in order to celebrate epiphany. The idea is that everyone takes a bit of the cake/bread/whatever it is, and whoever is lucky enough to get the bit with the wee metal king in it (and possibly break their teeth) gets to be the king for the day. Although I suspect it might be rigged towards those with very small heads, because the wee cardboard crown they gave us was very, very small).

I went to the bakery. It went something like this (but all in french):
Me: Can I please have a couronne des rois?
Her: Pardon?
Me: The bread thing being sold specially today? A couronne des rois [note that I wasn't actually sure what the things were called, but this bakery had a big sign outside saying "couronne des rois", so I was going with that]?
Her: I'm sorry, I can't understand you at all. You're making no sense to me.
Me: The special bread thing because today's the 6th of January ...
Her (to colleague): Can you understand what she is saying? I can't understand anything she says.
Me: You know, like a crown [gesturing at my head] ... for kings .... [petering off]

And then someone else helped me. Who miraculously understood me. Really, I'm not that incomprehensible. It was annoying.

As it turned out there were 2 kings in our galette des rois (it was more like a collection of cinnamon snails than anything properly bready. And one of the kings seemed to be a lady). I got one of them, but the crown didn't fit. Sigh.

Friday, 2 January 2009


.. or possibly just a list of things to do...

Get a Swiss drivers license (before March, but preferably before February)
Be more proactive about doing things in french (like going to the dentist/doctor/small shops where conversation is unavoidable. I was going to add hairdresser to that list, but since my hair is looking really quite respectable at the moment and I haven't seen a hair professional since March, I've decided not to)

.. Hmm. No doubt there are many more things I could add about getting a job and being a responsible adult, but I don't think I will. Better to keep it all pleasantly achievable.