Swiss Sunday – Buildings

It’s Sunday so it’s Swiss Sunday.

Switzerland has a truly staggering array of landscape visions. Rolling hills, meadows, lakes, soaring mountains, crashing waterfalls and crystal clear rivers.

But often what is missed is how the buildings often just blend perfectly into the stunning backdrops.

So it’s time to give a quick shout out to Swiss architecture.

Every time we crossed Lake Thun on the boat we would see this building. Usually with a man fishing just in front of it and dream of living here. Maybe in another life.

The 14th century wooden bridge in Lucerne has poignant memories. It’s the last place my partners mum visited in Switzerland before she became to frail to travel. It was a privilege to share that moment with her. Its one of the most striking man made structures I have ever seen.

Most holiday Sunday’s we would come to Interlaken. We would never fail to sit outside for a Swiss hot chocolate. Then as we walked round the town we would pass this luxury hotel. We never did save up enough to one day stay here. Again another one for another life.

On our wonderful trips we spent most of our time on the Lakes and in The Alps. We didn’t often venture into the cities. But when we did we started to really appreciate Swiss architecture. How much did we miss?

I want to take this opportunity to thank those who have been very complementary on this weekly series on Switzerland. It’s convinced me to keep it going. I’m starting to get suggestions for particular Swiss themes that some kind folks would like to see. So in the coming weeks I will see what I can come up with for waterfalls and the Swiss Capital.

2003

2003. A time before parenting. A happy dreaming couple. A time when digital photography was still seen as the work of the devil by many. When a mobile phone was just that – a mobile phone – nothing else. My football team was still playing in the European Champions League.

31st May 2003. As the local paper described it. A once in a lifetime opportunity. The chance to see a 90% solar eclipse. Two problems

  • The peak eclipse would happen dead on sunrise. Best viewed from the East Coast.
  • This is Yorkshire.

Yorkshire does many things well. Cricket, Rhubard, Beer, Ferrets, Terriers, Chocolate, Moody Moors. We also do lots of cloud and rain. We don’t really do sun – bit of a bugger when your looking forward to a solar eclipse.

With a wing and a prayer we set off for the coast at 3am. Arriving at Scarborough an hour later. People looking out across the sea. Just before sunrise it’s hard to tell if the clouds have formed.

The first signs of morning and we wait with baited breath. Will the Sun appear.

As the sunrise time came still no sign of the sun. Maybe too much sea mist.

Then at 4.36am a thin red strip of sun appears. The crowd let’s out a huge cheer. Some hardy folk jump into the sea for a swim.

Unbelievably the infamous Yorkshire weather was playing ball today. Not a cloud in the sky.

As the Sun continued to rise a beautiful red then orange water path virtually led the way to the eclipse. Someone had brought a ghetto blaster and almost hypnotic music drifted across the morning air. The dreaming couple talked about an adventure to a far off land to see a full eclipse one day. One day.

17 years later. The Yorkshire weather is certainly not playing ball. I came across these photos looking for my birth certificate. They instantly took me back to that time of dreams and a truly magical partial eclipse.

One more little miracle. A photo involving me. A photo I can sign up to. So to those who have asked for a picture. Ok here it is.. Me back in 2003.

Ghost letters

We have some really nice postmen who work our mail route. Even down to our third reserve postie who is equally nice and conscientious. So rather than just post an unusual letter he knocked at the door.

“Sorry to bother you but I don’t recognise the name on this letter addressed to you”

After a quick scan I confirmed the letter was correctly addressed to us. You see this postie only occasionally covers our village and probably only for the last couple of years. He has no idea, nor should he. We often think the world stops when someone dies and grief hits. But you quickly realise that the wider world keeps spinning. Only you and maybe a handful of others experience a shuddering world halt. When finally your world does starts spinning again there is no guarantee that it will get back up to the speed of the wider world. Until the speeds harmonise you feel out of synch. Not quite part of this world anymore. For me everything seems to happen in slow motion while outside of my bubble the world flies by. Sometimes I drift into social settings and no one seems to see me. They certainly don’t see the grief baggage that I am am shouldering. My chains. When I do reach out to make contact with the outside world again I often fail. As if I just can’t grasp it anymore. Part of the world yet removed from it. Maybe this is what a ghost feels like.

So when a letter arrives addressed to my partner and only two people blink. An efficient but blissfully unaware postman and me. You realise then that grief is deeply personal. Incredibly localised. All this from one of those letters. A random invite to a furniture sale. A mass produced advert. But the computer generated name on the front of the envelope changes everything. It reminds me of what I have become. Someone going through a process. Transitioning. Currently in the ghost stage.

New couple in the village

How often do you overlook what is so close to you.

Today we ventured out into the mist and the rain. No car needed. A walk from the house. In just over an hour we were back home.

Son was convinced to go as it counts as a new place. That’s number 9 of the 12 new places he set himself for 2019. A place so close to home yet this was sons first trip here.

A time machine could take us back to early in the century. We had just moved into the house. Within a few days with a map in hand the new couple in the village set off to explore. Twenty minutes later we walked hand in hand through this very landscape. What a wonderful place. Splendid isolation – must come here often. My partner never went again. Now I’ve been twice.

It was an odd feeling. Not sadness. More puzzlement. Why did we not come here more often. A place the villagers label The Hag. Maybe it’s because it’s a bog fest. Maybe it’s because the local farmers come game shooting here sometimes. Maybe it’s because it’s just too close to home.

The place has an eerie feel. Beautiful yet very moody. Although that new couple in the village only came here once. I’m sure this place holds some hidden memories. For that reason it’s going to be put on my running routes list. Let’s see what memory gifts it yields in 2020.

Names on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has been very damp and exceptionally grey. No colour at all. So it called for some colour from a couple of weeks ago. Today this is as colourful as it gets. I can’t think of a name for this at the moment.

As I’ve got older I’ve become more used to dealing with the inevitable life curveballs. But not completely. The dreaded demon curveball still gets through.

Dad if I had been a girl what would you and mum have called me.

I couldn’t remember and that’s a great start to 24th December. My defence is that we found out very early on in the pregnancy that it was boy names only. But I still should remember that. Those fun brainstorming seasons for two unprepared newbie parents in waiting. But nothing. It felt like I had let down our son and lost another important link with my partner. It hurt. It hurt like mad. Yes you can hurt at this time of year. Sadly so many do. Sending everyone of you a hug.

To try and clear my head I went outside to do my odd outside thing. Push a wheelbarrow around the garden a few times. It’s hard work but that’s the point. In the middle of the garden was a stray Santa’s Hat – presumably courtesy of Captain Chaos. So as the effort started to do its job I donned the slightly soggy hat. Wheelbarrowing in the rain. Like to see Gene Kelly’s face if that was the song he was given all those years ago to dance to. Wheelbarrowing in the rain did its job. Mind reset. I have one job and that is to make our son happy. Make him happy this Christmas. Need to get back to my A Game.

“Son when was the last time you had whip cream direct from the canister into the mouth”

Never Dad.

“Well you are now”

So that’s what we did. Soon this was escalated to shaving foam covering my entire face. It kinda suited me. Still no George Clooney but a vast improvement. A look all the more better for the sound of laughter filling the house.

Dad do you fancy a first to hit the crossbar challenge.

Followed a few minutes later with

Dad you do know it’s first to kick the ball onto the goal crossbar not first to repeatedly kick the ball into next doors garden challenge

As I spent a quite a bit of time retrieving the football from next doors garden I got to spend a bit of time noticing how a garden should look like. Very neat and tidy with immaculate lawns. Well almost immaculate. A couple of ugly holes courtesy of an escaping Captain Chaos. That’s compared to our garden which is more akin to a ploughed farmers field courtesy of moles, son and CAPTAIN CHAOS. Maybe 2020 is the year of the NEAT GARDEN. More likely it’s the year of the NEED A NEW GARDEN. So as the ball sailed over the hedge again son shouted.

Dad what would you call me now if I was a girl.

This time the curve ball missed.

Laa Laa Po Dora the Explorer Elsa Tinkerbell”

Really Dad. All those names.

“No son Dads fibbing.

Good I was getting worried. It’s a joke then

“Yes

Maybe you could call me either Daphne Blake or Velma Dinkley

“Jinkies that’s a good idea”

So a day that threatened to be scuppered on a girls name ended with laughs about a girls name. Like many folks I operate on such fine margins. With so little separating happiness and sadness. I really hope this Christmas you find happiness.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it’s time for a bit of beautiful Switzerland.

This times it’s a delightful alpine meadow walk in Wimmis.

Wimmis is a small municipality in the canton of Bern. A short walk from our hotel in Spiez finds us out into the meadows and heading towards Wimmis.

Alpine meadows make for some of the most relaxing walking country on the planet.

On one side you get glimpses of Lake Thun. Looking the other way brings on glorious views of The Alps.

For most of the walk we had the privilege of being accompanied by stunning birds of prey. Son was in awe. His encyclopaedic knowledge in full flow.

After a couple of hours it was classed as most definitely a two ice lolly walk.

Christmas Diaries 2

Still not what you would call postcard Christmas weather yet. This is lunchtime. Having said that how often do we get the crispy white stuff at Christmas anyway in North Yorkshire. In the 17 years we have lived here I can only remember one White Christmas. However I can remember many like the photo above.

When I was a kid I remember one really heavy snow Christmas Day. I remember sinking to my belly and my wellies filling up with crisp snow. Can also remember Dad going out before lunch to join a number of other men trying to clear the footpath. He told me it was so that the kids could get to school. Strange as the school was shut for another week. It was also strange that the cleared path went in the opposite direction to my school. Bizarrely the men stopped when they reached the pub. Can’t think why.

Our son’s school has now broken up for Christmas. So if it does snow I won’t need to worry about clearing a path towards it. One thing I do need to worry about is another little tradition of ours. How to keep the pets off the Christmas Tree.

The cat likes to try and sleep in it’s branches.

He is a very big boy, our biggest cat

That is how his Vet described him. So he doesn’t make the best tree climber. We usually find the tree toppled over with a slightly confused cat underneath it. Then we have the mad dog. Captain Chaos loves a tree. So much so that he likes to try and relocate it to his dog bed. This normally results in the tree toppled over which makes it so much easier for the mutt to pull it. Lord knows what Team Gerbil would do to it.

So my chair has to be relocated next to the tree. So I can sit and basically fight off unwarranted pet tree attention. It’s only a matter of time before the tree is toppled over and I am underneath it. Bet I would get the blame for that. That thought brings a smile. When I was 5 or 6 my family would put a real tree up in the living room. The family comprised mum and dad, my brother, three sisters and a very big dog. A dog who once bit the postman and then bit the local bobby (policeman) who came to ask dad to better control his pet. The tree would be filled to the brim with decorations. Prize of place on the tree would be these little silver paper wrapped chocolates. Either in the shape of Santa or an Elf. From Christmas Day onwards we were allowed to have one chocolate decoration a day. But this particular Christmas someone helped themselves to a decoration early. Three days in a row. Unbelievably I got blamed for it. Then on Christmas day the real culprit was caught in the act. The dog. I’m still waiting for my apology.

***WP is going into awkward mode again. Doing things like switching off comment boxes and stopping me liking other blogger posts. Normal service will be resumed when WP allows me to***

Long term project

Another grey day. Cheating a bit here. This photo was from yesterday. I never got that far today…

This morning the mist was much thicker. This time it was freezing fog. That awful stuff where all the dampness turns to ice as soon as it touches the ground. An invisible layer of sheet ice. Perfect running conditions. Not.

After two hundreds yards I had landed on my backside twice. The second including a beautiful slide into a road gutter. A third attempt ended 50 yards later as I went face first this time. Somehow I did a beautiful front somersault and landed on my feet again. Quickly looking round to see no one had witnessed my MVP sporting moment of 2019. That was it. An abandonment. A wise abandonment as I slipped over a couple of times on my short journey home.

It was so frustrating. With the Christmas School Holiday starting Friday I only had two more running opportunities left. After that the next run will be several days into 2020. But it is what it is. Hopefully a run tomorrow then I will make the best of home based exercises. At least for two weeks I won’t be running around like Bambi on ice. In my case that’s not a pleasant image. Especially as it’s from a time when Bambi has let himself go a bit….

While I was mind numbingly bored on the exercise plan b option. The exercise bike. I started thinking again about bereavement and grief. Looking back I recalled that for ages I was not able to talk about the circumstances surrounding my partners death. Every time it came up I broke down almost immediately. Now when I talk about it I’m almost very matter of fact. Almost devoid of emotion. In an hear a few cry so your over it now. Yet the other emotional triggers still set me off. Anniversaries. Special Days. A movie moment. A song line. Moments alone. Stressful times. An unexpected find.

It’s almost as if I have accepted her actual death but I haven’t accepted that she is no longer here. In reality I am so lucky. I have so many memories and her precious son – our son. I will gratefully run with them. Yes I’m going to fall. Going to fall often. But I need to pick myself up and treasure what is still left. This is a long term project.

Christmas Diaries 1

It’s been a grey moody day. It never once looked like clearing. At least it didn’t rain for a change.

The zero based hours contract gave me me three hours work today. For the next couple of weeks any work demands will be minimal. Not great for the bank account but it allows me to now focus on our son. So with a couple of days before the school breaks up – Christmas is about to start in earnest. So an early warning. You may get a few Christmas Parent Diary entries coming your way. Hopefully most will focus on the happy side of life. It almost certainly will feature a few cooking disasters. In fact let’s sort the first diary entry out right now.

So after the work dried up it and the grey run was completed it was time for a bit of baking. Time to make a stunning gluten free stollen cake. A few chaotic shopping trips had stocked up the larder with all the ingredients. This time it’s going to be baking heaven. Hang on a minute where’s the marzipan. As I love the stuff I bought 4 slabs worth. But where are they. Absolutely no sign. Don’t you just hate it when that happens. No problem I will just pop to the local store. Don’t stock it but they did have infeasible amounts of glazed cherries. So off to the supermarket. How can a supermarket run out of marzipan. How can the only other store reasonably close by also have none in stock. I gave up so let’s just make a Christmas cake. Three hours later I’m looking at a baking abomination. Crispy on the outside, undercooked on the inside and a ginormous sinkhole at its centre. The birds will eat well tomorrow.

So ends the first Christmas diary entry. But let’s do the diary preface now.

Christmas can be lovely and fun but wow can it hurt. It’s one of those times which naturally draws you to what you have lost. I was reading a blog which talked about this in such a haunting way.

All aboard! The holiday struggle-bus is pulling into the station, and I’ve got a ticket to ride.

That bus hit me yesterday. I was simply wrapping our sons presents up. Instantly I’m taken back a few years. Christmas music on. A couple of glasses of wine. My partner a ninja master at unwinding the cellotape and securing the edges of the wrapping paper. Unbelievably I was an expert at finding the best way to wrap the presents up. The perfect production line. So effective and so loving.

Now I sit on the floor with a tea and whatever is on the radio. To be honest I’m not listening. The presents are still being wrapped well but the cellotape has won the battle royal. It’s wrapped around my fingers, on my clothes, stuck to furniture and yet refusing to go anywhere near the wrapping paper. Love and happiness replaced with frustration and sadness. It’s never going to be like it was. That love is not going to be replaced. Those shared dreams are binned. It’s a truly sickening feeling.

It’s so easy to forget that this can be such a tough time for so many you are bereaved. For so many in pain. For so many without anything. For so many who are lonely. My heart goes out to you. You have a soulmate here.

Yes over the next few weeks this blog might get a bit silly. I really hope it does because it shows that I’m doing my only important job. Trying to make Christmas as fun as possible for our son. But underlying it will be someone still grieving what has been lost. My hope is that some of that Christmas magic which hopefully is enveloping our son will rub off on me. Showing that you can grieve but it’s still possible to have fun. If it works for me I really prey it’s rubs off on you as well.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it must be time for a bit of beautiful Switzerland. This morning it’s a lake trip.

Every Sunday morning we spent in Switzerland had the same trip. Catching the boat from Spiez to Interlaken.

It’s a couple of hours spent leisurely crossing Lake Thun.

Sometimes it’s a regular boat and sometimes it’s on the large and palatial old steamer.

Occasionally the trip comes with beautiful traditional Swiss Choir singing.

Our trip always involved a late breakfast, gorgeous coffee, fresh peppermint tea, a fruit juice and a table top animal game.

Lake Thun is a large one. It’s 2500 kilometres square and 712 ft deep.

After the late breakfast it was time to take in the stunning views.

We always said that if we ever won the lottery we would buy a house next to the lake. Mowing the lawn might be a tad dangerous on some of the properties.

Eventually you arrive at Interlaken after a beautiful and oh so relaxing morning.