Murren

Switzerland does spectacularly beautiful mountain villages probably none more so than Murren. It sits at 5374ft above sea level with stunning views of some of the worlds finest mountains.

We ventured here a few times. The photos are taken from an Easter visit when an early heat wave cleared out the village snow. For some reason it’s the only place in Switzerland we came across a fully grown St Bernard. Now that was a big fella.

It is one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist destinations. The village has just over 400 residents so you might expect limited facilities. It has 10 hotels with 2000 hotel beds, 11 restaurants and 2 bars. It is also home to The Inferno, the worlds longest Amateur Downhill Ski Race. Unbelievably it’s about 5 times the length of an Olympic Downhill. That must be some tight buttocks at the end of that.

It’s a car free place – that’s right no double parking here. The village cannot be reached by public road. You can only get here by mountain train or cable car.

Next Sunday lets hopefully enjoy a glorious walk down from Murren to Lauterbrunnen or maybe we will head upwards towards a bit of James Bond…

Priorities

The U.K. newspaper the Guardian ran an article today on how Special Needs Education is breaking Council budgets. It’s underlying argument is that as special educational needs are growing the Government is simply burying its head in the ground. As our son is one of the 354,000 mentioned in the article it feels very pertinent to what I’ve been waffling on about for months. We live in times when Austerity reigns supreme. Even the Special Education Budget is seen as an increasingly easy target for cuts.

The Government and our soon to be gone PM are very keen to stress that money doesn’t grow on trees. But surely it does. How else can you explain these little facts.

  • When the current government failed to secure a majority in Parliament it needed a new friend. Friends don’t come cheap. The Government found an additional £1Billion in funding for Northern Ireland budgets which was enough to buy the support of the DUP party. Basically money appears if it means keeping the PM in a job.
  • The Government decided that due to Brexit we needed more Ferry capacity. It unbelievably awarded a £14M contract to a company that had no ferries and had never run shipping before. Basically £14M down the pan.
  • £14M wasn’t enough for this Government so they decided to ignore Procurement Rules in the award of the Ferry contract to a company that doesn’t have any ships at all. So they got challenged by another company. To avoid an embarrassing trial the Government paid another £33M out. That’s a lot of money for no Ferries especially when Brexit was delayed so we didn’t need them anyway.
  • Not quite finished yet with Ferries. The Government paid just under £1M to have Private Consultants assess the viability of a Ferry Company that had no have Ferries. You couldn’t make this up.
  • £67M per year spent on the Royal Family.
  • The Government spent £13M on consultants over two months in a failed attempt to get MPs to back the PMs doomed Brexit proposal.
  • Over £2B has been spent on planning for a no deal Brexit.
  • The Government spent £4M on advertising to try and promote its discredited Universal Credits Policy.
  • Every year taxpayers fork out just under £1M for the PM to use the Chequers Country Estate.
  • The previous Government cut the very highest tax rate from 50% to 45%. This has cost over £8.5B.
  • The Government spent £9M on a leaflet promoting the dangers of Brexit. Now essentially the same Government is promoting the benefits of Brexit.
  • Money is tight but the Government found £55Billion to essentially build a vanity high speed train set through some of our countries finest countryside.
  • £14Billion to build another runway at Heathrow. Bugger the environmental costs. A policy so mad that even the king of buffoonery Boris Johnson said “I will lie down in front of those bulldozers and stop the construction of that third runway … Heathrow is just undeliverable, and the sooner we face that the sooner our salvation
  • The previous PM wanted his own Air Force One. So we spent £10M on one. The funny thing is that Cameron only got to fly on his plane once before he resigned.
  • Although money doesn’t grow on trees money was found to put adverts on vans and in newspapers telling potential illegal immigrants to Go Home. They then found another £200000 to pay for a study to show how good the idea was.
  • Every year Taxpayers are paying £3.7M subsidising our MPs and Lords food and drink cost when they are in Parliament. I’m still waiting for my food and drink to be subsidised.

I could go on an on but I hear you cry no more.

So the bottom line is money is available to the few when it’s needed. Sadly that does not apply to the 354,000 kids with recognised special educational needs and the countless thousands who fall through the system.

We live in hope of change. Unfortunately hope or change is not the middle name of the two chaps competing to be the new PM. They live in a different world

  • Jeremy Hunt regularly earned dividend of over £900k per year on top of his Cabinet salary. He later sold a company which earned him £15M.
  • Boris Bozo Johnson said that his cabinet salary of £141,000 was not enough for him to live on….

So no hope here then. But one day a revolution will come. We will start to get our priorities right and our society will start looking after the many and not the few…

That’s probably got me blacklisted on the American Visa system now and will certainly have pissed off several million in my own country…..

Hot Air

Not a sight you expect at 7.30am when you go to see what the dog is barking at. Makes a change not being the main source of hot air in the village.

The school holidays have officially started and it’s raining. Happy Days. Still rain means more movie time.

Last Saturday we watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Call us both Philistines but we preferred this to any of the Harry Potter movies. I never really warmed to Harry Potter – often thought the movie series would have been improved without him. Is it bad that I found myself siding with whoever was fighting against him. My version would have seen him bumped off quickly then Hermione, Ron and Neville taking the good fight forward through the rest of the franchise. That’s probably explains why J K is super rich and I’m not…..

Anyway I really warmed to the main wizard in Fantastic Beasts. Way more interesting. Son also really liked him. After about 10 minutes of the movie son said

Well I think Newt has Aspergers. The way he stands, minimises his eye contact and talks is so Aspergers. He clearly finds the human world alien and has really special interests.

Later he said

I like the way the film doesn’t hide it or make a big issue of it. He is clearly the most normal character in the whole film. He is just nice.

I have to say the thought had already crossed my mind. Later I checked and although JK hasn’t referred to it Newts actor has basically confirmed this. If that was the intention it was handled brilliantly. Aspergers does not have to mean Arrogance. Aspergers does not have to always involve belittling others. It does not have to be about being Patronising or speaking in a condescending way. It was also definitely refreshing NOT to have the Aspergers person portrayed as the Sociopath.

Pranked again

Absolutely shattered. Tank empty, operating on fumes. Sleep walking. Zonked out. Giving Zombies a bad name. Too tired to sleep. Insomnia. Whatever you call it, it’s not a good place to be. Too many of us suffer from this. So much for progress.

Last night was a decent one really in the scheme of things. Three hours sleep. But just not enough. You know it’s going to be a long day when you go to make a wake me up coffee only to find when you sit down that you had already made one only a couple minutes ago. At least back to back coffees was a nice indulgence.

Thankfully I was alone at work. Not sure I could have managed conversation and spreadsheets. Today the spreadsheets got the best of me anyway. Nothing like looking at row after row of numbers to help wake you up – NOT.

One thing is clear – my tiredness makes me a sitting duck to stupidity. Driving back from work today I picked up our son from school. Soon the tiredness really started to catch up with me. While driving I fumbled around next to me for anything sweet and sugary. Unfortunately I completely forgot that I had not yet disposed of my son’s ear plugs from Kiss. Repeating the disaster from last year I again sampled the taste delights of used earplugs.

I was that tired I didn’t initially realise the humiliation. Just chomping away, just marvellous. The first indication was the hysterical laughter coming from next to me.

I secretly hoped you would do that again. You are often so predictable. So predictable I actually cleaned them first. See I’m nice that way.

Very kind of him.

Later I took the dog for a walk. No that’s wrong. This evening the dog took me for a walk. I was definitely in autopilot mode. We ended up in a random, new field. At least it was beautiful. I could happily have crashed here for the night. Not sure the farmer would have been that impressed with the sleeping trespasser. It took me a while to figure out how to get back home.

Anyway I’m back now. Hoping for maybe 4 hours tonight. That would be nice but I’m not holding my breathe. I will take any sleep, any at all.

Terrible Poetry Contest

It’s that time for Chelsea Owens Terrible Poetry Contest.

This week’s specifics:

  1. Topic: Animals and their pregnancy.
    Did you know the African Bush Elephant carries …well, an elephant for 22 months? That a male seahorse carries the babies (up to 1,500!)? Or that female Komodo Dragons can impregnate themselves without a male through a process called parthenogenesis?
    Did you know you’re going to write a poem about it?
  2. Just to make it more fun, I’d like the Length to be about Hallmark Valentine’s Day card-sized. Bonus points if you actually write it like a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card.
  3. Rhyme? It’s up to you.
  4. Mostly, just make it terrible. Whilst composing your note of affection, a pregnant elephant all the way across the ocean needs to raise its head from the water hole toilet and vow to spend its next 21 months making its way to your house…
  5. do know where babies come from; but if National Geographic can keep things clinical, I think our usual PG rating will suffice.

Additional a very wise person has asked if I would include the following word.

antediluvian

Well thanks for that pal at least I gave you the much more usable bedposts to play with.

************************

When the Giraffe gives birth the baby falls to the ground

But luckily the calves are not hurt they seem to rebound

Lucky female seahorses as the males are the ones who give birth

I wonder how that effects the dads and their much prized girth

A chipmunk can give birth every forty five days

That’s enough to make Alvin stop singing and go into a daze

Opossums are quick they only gestate for fourteen days

Pressure on the males as it’s an even quicker menstrual phase

Humans are so much slower yet no less Herculean

That all makes the our pregnancy rather antediluvian

School report

I managed to find a kindly Bee who stayed still long enough for my ancient mobile phone to crank its focus into operation. Let’s call the little fella – Stanley. Let’s hope Stanley is safely tucked up in a dry bed. Within an hour of the photo the heavens opened and it’s pouring down. Two days before our kids break up and the weather threatens to go distinctly wet. Every year it seems to be a dry and warm spell for the last few weeks of term and then ….. Perfect timing.

I wonder if Stanley is any good at explaining the year end school report. In my day you got a little report with a hand written note for each subject with a grade from A to E. A meant that you were either the Headteachers illegitimate child or you had discovered a new chemical element. E stood for ‘Dads going to kill you when he reads this’. We only had one teacher but she changed her handwriting for each subject – maybe that was to make the school look like it had so much more teaching resources. The teacher comments had an Orwellian edge to them. Looking back at the reports you can see such classic comments for me as

Like most of the class he could do better.

He is a really good goalkeeper but he has quite small hands.

His attitude in Biology has been excellent only let down by him being sick over the teacher during a taste testing experiment.

He has absolutely no aptitude in French but he is keen.

His Space Rocket painting was so good it was displayed in the local library. But he needs to be much quicker and not just paint rockets.

I never had the heart to tell the teacher that it wasn’t a space rocket – it was a fishing boat. Even my art career was based on a lie…..

One of the most understated teacher comments was for a lad in our class who lived 3 doors down from us. The teacher said of his behaviour – ‘he has largely behaved himself with one or two blips’. Blips – the kid got arrested for burning down the village hall and trying to start a fire under the headteachers desk…

Anyway we move forward many years. Even after several coffees I haven’t the foggiest what our sons report is telling me. No helpful comments for each subject. These have been replaced by an apparently random set of grade letters and numbers – 5B 6A 4C …. No code explanations are provided. Is it just me being thick….. You also get an expected performance level at the end of the Key Stage. Bizarrely the subject he is best at gets the lowest performance level. It does feel like the report is more an instrument for meeting Government Targets rather than helping the child or parents. He also got 4 commendations including one which is not a subject taught in his year (we think Business Studies is probably Science). Must say that his really nice Form Tutor included some lovely comments – such a shame she is leaving.

I’ve given up trying to understand the report. Tomorrow I might phone the school up for help or I might just go and find Stanley. Speaking to Stanley will be far less embarrassing. Good job parents don’t get end of year reports.

Garibaldi

When I was a kid I loved a Garibaldi biscuit. Not had one in years. Sorry rubbish connection but beyond tired at present.

It’s been one of those days. Constant motion. Housework, Pre School Routine, Work, Dinner, Work. Lots of action, no sitting down yet achieving absolutely nothing. Even the dog walk up the hill lane just seemed to take longer today. The days culmination was forgetting about tomorrow’s school uniform. So panic washing cycle started at 11.30pm. Waiting for it to finish now. Then we are going to crank up the Tumble Dryer to its highest setting – equivalent to splitting the atom. Hoping I will get a semi dry uniform to iron by 2am. It’s been one of those days…..

Anyway back to my rubbish connection.

When we went to see Kiss the support act was a performance painter called David Garibaldi. Have to say he is definitely gifted. Frankly it’s just showing off just a bit too much when you can paint Elton John brilliantly, before a Rocket Man finishes and doing the painting upside down. But seriously the guy is a genius.

“Dad he could do my bedroom like a modern Sistine Chapel during one Spongebob episode. It’s taken you a year and it’s still resembles a building site.”

I bet Garibaldi isn’t trying to paint a masterpiece at 1am while he waits for what’s left of a school uniform to dry. But maybe the secret is to take the painters approach to time management. Pick a song then try to finish the painting job before it finishes. I wonder if that could work with housework and washing.

Sunday night Kissing

Kissing is something which died when the world changed. Well anyway for me. But Sunday Night Kissing is still just about possible.

Last night we went to see Kiss perform their last ever English concert.

It was loud. It was cartoon like. It was larger than life. It was ridiculously full of explosions. It was Rock and Entertainment at its best.

Unbelievably I noticed a young chap stand up without prompting, start dancing, shouting, singing and clapping. That’s a first. Thankfully he has more rhythm than his Dad.

I have to say music has been a lifesaver. It’s always been the one constant. It wasn’t embarrassed when I struggled with depression. It didn’t turn its back on me when death came calling in 2016. And it didn’t batter an eyelid when Autism came a calling.

Yes Kissing is a memory. No more Kiss concerts for us. But we have precious memories.

Music is an unwavering friend who has embraced our son. Thank you Kiss. Thank you Rock. Thank you Music.

Blinkered

All the days I have walked the same path. Seen the same views in differing weather conditions. Yet I’ve been blinkered. Walking through a small wood and always looking straight ahead at the path leading out of the trees. If I only had stopped looked right and peered through the trees I would have seen this small pond. Yesterday I did that. Then throwing caution to the wind I looked left. Another pond.

Yesterday was a day of revelations. I was sat in the living room pondering life and death when I suddenly noticed something that I had completely missed. Before the world change we were like most couples. All of our possessions just merged together. Her 80s dance CDs would be intermixed with my Heavy Metal discs. Her historical drama DVDs would be randomly mixed up with my Sci Fi ones. Apart from clothes our stuff just randomly lived together.

Now she is gone and yesterday I realised the order of things has changed. Now we have separate piles. Her CDs in one near pile, mine in another. Her books in one book case, mine in a separate one. When I’ve used her stuff I have filed it neatly back with her pile. A repeated pattern. Her stuff, then the stuff we bought together then my stuff. Perfectly split.

Bizarre. Why? This is purely down to me yet it’s completely out of character. The most disorganised and random person going. Probably more than ever and yet suddenly items are being put in order. I hadn’t even realised I was doing it. Blinkered again.

Languages

Is it Swiss Sunday already. Seems only seven days since we had the last one.

One of the things that strikes you about your time in Switzerland is the sound. In the Alps it is just the sweet sound of gentle wind – absolutely nothing else. On the hills it’s the hypnotic sound of cow bells. The waterfalls sound so magical. The thunder is almost Thor like as they echo around the mountains. The rivers always seem to be cascading over rocks. Even the sound of the Swiss Horn takes on an ethereal quality. The restaurants like anywhere can be noisy. But it’s a very polite noise.

The other thing that strikes you is the range of languages you here. In England you only here English really, yes different dialects but just one language. In Switzerland it’s different. One day we tried to count how many different ones we could pick out in a pizza restaurant in Spiez.

  • German
  • Swiss German
  • Italian
  • French
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Russian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • English
  • American (sorry)

With me being there you could also add speaking Bo****ks.

The place is so multilingual. The trains do announcements in German, French, Italian and English. It’s the one mainland European country you can get by in by just speaking English. I remember buying tickets for a bus somewhere near Zermatt. The ticket man apologised for his poor English. Then spoke in near perfect English for about 5 minutes about England, it’s weather and our fondness for warm frothy beer. Listening to him speak so fluently just emphasised my deficiency’s in my own language. It doesn’t even feel like it’s good enough to be my second language.

Another time a train guard came to check our tickets. I can see his image so vividly.

“Dad it’s Super Mario” – he was the spitting image of him.

The guard looked at our tickets then said he would come back. Oh no what have we done. A few minutes later he came back and sat down. He apologised that English was only his fourth language. He then spoke to us for twenty minutes until the train arrived in Geneva. He talked about English Politics, the English Football Team and how he respected the British Royal Family – but he didn’t like Charles as he was too much of a tree hugger. He loved reading about Churchill. The bloke could name most of our Royal Family, the London Major, most of our Government and our Football Players. His knowledge of another country put my knowledge of his country to shame. I couldn’t even name the Swiss President. This shouts out two things. The merits of the Swiss Educational system and the narrow mindedness of the English one.

I do know now that the Swiss President is Ueli Maurer….