Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it must be time for our weekly virtual visit to beautiful Switzerland.

This week let’s find the usual alpine landscapes mixed with a few animal ones as well. All from wonderful Switzerland.

As a toddler son loved animals. He still does… One day he would love to have a falconry or zoo. I so hope he does.

Every visit to Switzerland gave him an opportunity to get close to animals.

AND as we always arrived on a Saturday a trip to his favourite shop in the world on the Sunday. A shop in Interlaken with a huge range of Schleich toy animals.

He would get to buy 4 new ones. He was always careful to pick toys which he couldn’t get hold off in tour Yorkshire shops. Then the new members of the team would then get a 7 day guided tour of Switzerland.

A guided tour which would take in at least one zoo.

Happy days and definitely hungry work….

Angry clouds

It’s just been days of angry weather.

When I see this type of stormy clouds I remember back to my childhood. As you got older you started to realise that in our seaside town the weather would always seem to come from over the hills and follow the river to the sea. For us that would mean the weather would first appear to the north west. That was in the direction of one of our neighbours gardens. So the following weather expression was frequently heard from my parents.

It’s luking black ower Mr Homans Potting Shed, aye get thy washing in.

When means you have just a few minutes more footy before your summoned in as the heavens have opened. If the weather ever came from over Eddie Cook’s Pigeon Loft then it was time to get the paddling pool out.

Strangely parenting forecasting from the 70s was far more accurate that the current UK Meteorological Service best guesses. Currently the weather scientists are telling us that we have light cloud and less than a 10% chance of light rain. Well tell that to the paving stones which are currently being jet washed in the nonstop monsoon.

So let’s ditch the UK’s dodgy weather science and go old school. So here are a few other old weather laws that were passed down to me.

  • Red sky at night fisherman’s delight, red sky in the morning fisherman’s warning,
  • Mackerel Clouds in the sky then the weather is going to change,
  • The Sun or Moon saying hello means that rain is on the way (saying hello means having a halo around it),
  • The greener the Rhubard leaves the worse the weather will be,
  • Wet seaweed means rain is coming (I never bought into this one as surely that just means the tide has been in recently),
  • Rain at lunch will be gone by tea (basically saying the UK weather is changeable),
  • When rain is coming the spiders will disappear,
  • Rainbows before lunch tells us that rain will be here all day,
  • Cows sit down when rain is due (must admit this is clearly true as I was watching an episode of Ben & Holly where the wise old elf foolishly took shelter under a cow when it started to rain),
  • When smoke rises the weather will be good. When it fails to rise them bad weather is due,
  • Expect a bad winter if the hedgerows produce loads of berries,
  • If you want a dry day best to have dew on the grass in the morning.

One last weather law. I had a friend whose dad was a complete nutter. So funny. I remember him telling me once about his rabbit. He explained that his rabbit would only eat carrots when it was raining. I asked what it had to eat when it was sunny and he told me with a smile – I don’t know, will tell you when we get the sun, patience lad I’ve only had the rabbit 3 years.

So that’s me out of weather law. Can anyone add to my knowledge?

Looking at this photo I think I can confidently predict no need for sun protection….

Kinda day

Surely it’s that kinda day.

The alarm rings and I drag the body out of bed and stumble towards my gym kit. Before exercise the important stuff. Feed the pets.

Start with the Gerbils. They will only eat one type of small animal feed and strangely it’s not the cheapest. Trying to change the food and water is always a challenge when you have three little white chaps scurrying up your arm.

Then it’s the big boy cat. He suffers after years of substance abuse. He has had far too many trips to the vets after sampling various harmful items – usually from the farm. Now he’s banned from going out and has to go on a strict diet. He can only eat gluten, grain and dairy free food. Special food which happens to be three times the price of normal cat food. He’s far from impressed and he is surprisingly fleet of foot which he eyes other food opportunities – usually my dinner.

At least the dog has cheap food tastes. He will eat anything. So he dines out on cheaper branded food. Anything works for him. Cat food, our food, vegetables from the garden. His favourites are particularly healthy options

Yorkshire Puddings

Chips and crisps.

Although cheap to feed he does have his very own foible. He can’t and won’t eat food direct from his bowl. He picks up each individual biscuit and carries it to a chair or the sofa. Munches it there and then returns for the next little piece of food. The process repeats for hours. Takes him ages to eat anything and the mess…..

Here’s the key thing. Yes the pets cost money, add workload and create so much mess.

BUT

They bring so much joy to our son. They bring life to the house. Bringing them into our world was the best parenting decision ever.

Ants

The little Apple tree is springing into life. This is the time of year when you can gauge what type of crop it will produce in 5 months. This apple tree does have different yields. Sometimes too much fruit. Sometimes hardly any fruit. This year looks like an ok year.

Sometimes you can get a feel for what a day is going to be like by just looking at the first few minutes.

Dragging myself back into the house after the early morning workout. Desperate for that first warming brew of the day. A particularly zombiefied version of exercise today. Very tired today. So nothing better than entering the kitchen to find ants. Lots of ants. Reaching for the ant poison is not an option with pets. Especially with our big boy cat who is the cat version of Ozzy Osbourne. Any substance is getting sampled. So out comes the one part lemon, one part water spray. Apparently ants don’t like lemon. If that doesn’t work then it’s time for the pepper and the inevitable sneezing cat. A few years back ants was no issue. We had a lovely but psychotic girl cat. The ultimate apex predator. Only creatures with a death wish came in the house. But now it’s up to me to sort this issue out.

So by the time schools version of homeschooling started – I was already feeling like it was way past my bedtime.

Then within minutes the first school crisis. Son has failed to submit a project in time. To be fair to him he was not in the lesson when it was given out to the class. That’s not a valid excuse for school as the child or parent should check the school emails and online files for assigned tasks. We did eventually find the relevant document hidden away in a random class file. To be fair to us – it was like searching for a needle in a haystack – when your not aware that a needle has gone missing. The teacher has granted a couple of days extension but that means son will have little free time this week. At least it gives me another excuse not to start any DIY projects. Not that I need much excuse these days.

The rest of the school day passed in a groggy haze. Trying to explain the vagaries of the English Language and working out why so many marks have been deducted for spelling mistakes. Trying to fathom out why a subject is seemingly asking questions about a completely unrelated area. And finally trying to understand what precisely is the teacher wanting the class to do. I think there is still a lot of merit in putting the questions at the end of a document. The teacher referred to 9 questions in the text but after much searching, we could only find 5.

So it’s back to the kitchen and THE ANTS. Clearly our ants are immune to lemons. So now I must resort to using up my dwindling supply of salt and pepper as weapons of ant destruction. Failing that then it’s testing various other kitchen supplies as ant repellents. Curry Powder, Chilli flakes and Turmeric. Let’s hope ants are not fans of spicy cuisine.

Safety

Today’s out of focus wildlife action shot is of someone who lives in our roof. Actually taken yesterday when the sun was shining. Our housemate is about the only member of our household who gets out these days.

This is the seventh week of Son’s own version of the lockdown. A few dog walks in the early weeks but then going through the garden gate became increasingly difficult for him. Even in the security of our car, a simple trip out onto the road becomes an anxiety crisis. When he returns he immediately washes his hands for minutes then has to have a shower and bath. These are genuine fears. Fears that effect his life. The excessive need to wash is not new. He has been shown how to clean his hands like a nurse. He has hand washing drills that set time limits. But sometimes it’s best to let these lapse as the excessive cleaning is often more about ridding his soul of anxieties rather than purely removing germs from his skin. Especially when a virus surrounds him which has so many unknowns.

He won’t be alone in these fears and feelings.

A chap in London with a little NHS badge announcing that the lockdown is being eased or lifted is not the end of the matter. It’s not as if it’s a water tap which we can instantly turn on and off. That’s also assuming that the virus remains under control and doesn’t spike again. Under Control is a rather worrying definition these days. It appears to mean keeping daily infections running into thousands and deaths below 300 a day. That’s just hospital based deaths not including the huge numbers occurring in care homes or in the wider community. For many the easing of restrictions is just the start of a long and painful slog. No sudden street parties for them. It’s about trying to repair bridges between the safety of their homes and the wider world. Picking up sufficient confidence to walk past that front gate. To meet people again. That’s going to be so tough with no guarantee of success.

So for the foreseeable future, our little starling will be the only one venturing out.

Village life

It’s almost time for these biscuit munchers to move to another field. The cows are massing, waiting to hit the field for the summer months. Hopefully the three cow friends of our dog are still here. Dog is wagging his tail at the sight of the herd in the distance.

That’s country life for you right there. That’s as exciting and as racy as it gets here. It’s such a different life pace than living in the city. It took me a couple of years to adjust. Life never stands still in the city. Constant noise, constant movement. Even at night it never stopped. So much light pollution, sirens wailing, so much human nightlife. Yes immediate access to facilities and entertainment but it comes at a price.

Here we get a chip van that comes once a week. A cycle race comes through maybe every couple of months. Once a year a vintage car rally might stop off. That’s it for the days. With the spaces and high hedgerows you hardly ever see signs of human life. That’s such a good thing somedays…. Son and I have our little challenges with forfeits. Basically it gives Son an opportunity to torture his Dad. I remember one challenge where the loser had to run round the garden ten times – naked. The inevitable happened and I found the whole experience most liberating. In a city that sort of behaviour would have got me quickly arrested. Here in the village all it produced was much chuckling from Son and bemused looks from the cows.

At night no street lighting or light pollution. No pub to foster human nightlife. Wander into your garden and it’s pitch black. The only noise is from the wildlife. I’ve told the story from the first night before. Stood outside looking at the stars. Amazed at how many I could see. Then a deeply unsettling feeling. I am not alone. I am being watched. Suddenly countless eyes appear at the fence. I of course took it in my stride. Screamed and ran. The eyes later revealed to be many sheep clearly waiting for biscuits.

But over the years it’s all changed. Now I find cities claustrophobic and unsettling. I’m not sure I could ever go back to living in one again. Certainly Son would struggle. He enjoys his space and the quiet. City life would be too many people in too little space. Too many sensory distractions. I remember my partner saying that we will never return to urban life. We might end up being in this house for the rest of our lives. She was right, sadly far too quickly right.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so does anyone fancy a little virtual trip to a wonderful country called Switzerland.

Yes I might be currently over 1000km away in another part of Europe. But my heart is there.

So as my world rapidly shrinks for the next few months, I think it’s time to remember the beauty of The Alps.

The wonderful and friendly people. The brilliant culture.

The clock work precision of daily life. Even its wildlife get in on the act.

The stunning clear blue Lakes.

The history.

The beautiful Swiss villages and towns.

The always colourful alpine meadows.

The crisp mountain air.

The fun

And above all the peace.

Bee

Slightly unnerving BEEing (being) eyeballed by this woolly friend. Couldn’t work out if it was admiring my silky garden football skills or was waiting for a Rich Tea biscuit. I lived in footballing worship hope until a biscuit was handed over and the woolly one then walked off.

Not always but occasionally life balances itself out. This morning I finished my last bit of paid work before the company basically shuts down for a couple of months (maybe longer). So no money coming in. As I closed the work laptop the phone rang. It was the garage, they still can’t get the parts needed for my cars poorly braking system. They will keep trying but the repair work won’t happen much before May. That’s a bit of a result. Won’t BEE (be) using the car much at all and that’s one hefty bill kicked into the long grass.

Talking about long grass. Last year someone gave me a wild bee hotel. The poor souls are struggling here so I thought I would do my bit. A quiet corner in the garden has been allowed to go wild. To be factually correct that should have been described as – I have let a part of the badly overgrown garden to go even wilder than the rest of the mess…

Anyway in the wild corner I have carefully located the bee hotel. Still no little takers after many months. I remember my Dad telling me that the first bee you see in spring is probably looking for a new home. He was a stubborn Yorkshireman so I never dared to question his apicultural knowledge. So our first bee of the season arrived.

A bee clearly fixated on trying to squeeze under the back door and get into our house. I tried showing the bee the currently vacant and palatial hotel. As hard as I pointed at the hotel’s front door, the bee just ignored me. Even a little honey failed to entice the bee. UnBEElievable (Unbelievable)

My question to you. What is the bee phrase for ‘Sorry pal your not coming in here. This thing I’m pointing at is your free of charge new house. I will even feed you each day.”

Energy

Well this friend likes my baking.

These days nothing goes to waste. Always find grateful recipients of any food we can’t finish. But there is a limit.

Today has been a bit unusual. Normally the body is willing but the mind refuses to leave my sleepless bed. Today was the complete reverse. My body felt like it was just a heavy sack of spuds. However the mind was sharp. Those three brain cells of mine were purring. Screamed through the workload which freed up an hour for exercise. Here is where the problems started. The bag of spuds just didn’t want to play. I dragged my body through the session but only just. The school run became a real effort. Trying to keep up with son proved impossible. I just wanted to collapse in a chair.

Now it was time for the three brain cells to follow my bodies lead and shutdown. Basically I had nothing. Unfortunately this coincided with Pancake Tuesday. An utter and unmitigated baking disaster. A simple pancake was beyond me. The sticky mess produced was deemed even too bad for the wildlife. So for the first time in ages food went into the bin. I finally just slumped into a chair. Then it dawned on me. I had not eaten in over 24 hours. I’m on the 16:8 diet. Can only eat in one 8 hour spell. I had simple forgotten about an 8 hour food window. What a prize pillock.

Thankfully heaps of junk food has restored my energy levels. The body is now beginning to function. Unfortunately the three brain cells are now a spent force. So the status quo has been restored. Back to being a brisk walking zombie. But it just goes to show if you start to overthink life it’s so easy to take your eye off the basics. It’s also another important warning. We are down to one parent and hence we are walking a tightrope. That’s why it’s so important that in all my efforts to be a good mum and dad, that I remember to care for myself as well.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it must be time for a little bit of Switzerland.

In all our trips to this wonderful country we would usually spend our time in the mountains and the lakes. But as soon as son joined our trips we would need to find time to visit Tierparks – Zoos. Every so often it would be to the large zoo in Zurich. But his favourite animal place was Bern. A city with a wonderful little zoo and a bear park.

Bern is such a beautiful city.

Bern is the de facto capital of Switzerland. The country doesn’t have an official capital but Bern is classed as its federal city.

It’s strange in all the visits we made to Bern it was always sunny.

The Zytglogge (Clock Tower) is over 400 hundred years old. Every hour a wonderful mechanical music show entertains the crowds.

The old part of the city which dates back to the 12th century is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Cathedral of St Vincent towers over the city.

The thing that strikes you about Bern is that even on a work day it seems such a quiet city. It’s also such a friendly place. The first time we came looking for the zoo we didn’t have a clue where to go. At the train station we asked a passerby what was the best way to the zoo. He happily provided us with a city map and then walked us to the correct tram stop. That’s not going to happen in London…..

The river Aare sweeps through Bern and the hilly ground often offers wonderful views across its many bridges.

The city is famed for its Bears. Thankfully the city has invested in improving the Bear Park.

Walking round the city, even a beautiful one like Bern is in the end – very thirsty work.