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.