Snowman

An unexpected view today. But it was a good one. For those with really keen eyes you can see York Minster in the distance. The only city building you can see from this here.

A trip to work expecting to be kept busy until the school bell warms up for its last ring of the day. But quickly the full day was over in just over an hour. That’s the problem with zero hours based contracts. It’s not a stable source of income. But needs must. Full time professional employment was consigned to history when the world changed. Full time single parent – part time wage earner. So another Christmas which will need to be carefully controlled. Probably won’t be treating myself to the Italian Sports Car and the Racehorse this year.

So an unplanned dog walk. And that view. For some reason my mind wandered from affordable Christmas present ideas to snow. Many of my friends here have mentioned the snow they are struggling with. This time nine years ago we were in the middle of our own snow event. It was waste deep here. Our little sledging run is just behind this field. Every time it snowed my partner was out with her ruler to measure the depth. That was the only winter when she needed a bigger ruler. Wow it was cold. One day it never got higher than -17C. Was that the coldest I’ve ever been. My Partner would talk about the cold on her adventure to Patagonia. For me it probably was. Oh hang on a minute That night at Uni.

My mind wanders back further to a time before my Partner. Days of studying marked by text books finding a use as beer glass place mats. And that night. A cold dark winters night with fresh snow on the ground. A Hall of Residence Party which is suddenly overtaken with a brilliant plan. Let’s all go outside and make snow angels. A few sensible souls went out fully clothed. The majority didn’t… In the snow much exposed skin…. Of both sexes. For my sins it was trainers and pants – nothing else. So much laughter but it was a tad chilly. Some interesting snow angels and a very large snowman. A snowman who suddenly became one of the sisters as he acquired a bra. Then disaster the Halls Fire Alarm went off. We couldn’t get back inside until the Fire Brigade arrived. Now it was more than a tad cold. The only thing keeping us going was the bottles of Bud. The looks on the Fire Crews faces when they arrived. Still not allowed inside until a sweep has been made of the property. Then another brilliant idea. Form an orderly queue and take turns to warm your bottom on the Fire Trucks hot engine. I suspect we (or to be more precise the female students) made the drivers night.

Maybe one day I will delve back into that year. It got much more bizarre. But now back to reality. Back to my completely sober years. A present idea. Let’s get one of those cheap singing and dancing snowmen. That will bring a few memories back.

Swiss Sunday

It’s time for another slice of that wonderful country – Switzerland.

One mountain in particular towers over Spiez. Where our hotel base was. Beautiful Niesen. Son calls it the pyramid mountain.

It’s the northern edge of a spectacular mountain ridge and is 7749ft high (2362m). A short train journey takes you to the base of the mountain. As son was still quite young we were restricted on walking distances. Plus it was often a few steps of walking then more time to dream.

So we got off the train at Frutigen and walked along the lovely Kander River. Eventually arriving at the Mulenen and the Niesenbahn.

An old Funicular will carry you to the top. In places it is scarily steep. For the mad ones amongst us – once a year – you can enter the mountains stair run. A stairway follows the route of the Funicular to the top. Comprising of 11674 steps. It is the Worlds Longest Stairway. Really unfortunately the day we went up was one of the stairways closed days – that’s a shame….

As the Funicular moves above the tree line the views open out.

Next week we will continue the story on the summit. It is truly one of the great views. As good as I’ve had the privilege of seeing.

Foot bath

The sun so tantalisingly close but no cigar. That’s as close as it came to beach weather here in Yorkshire today. When I say beach weather that is in terms of Walruses.

The picture is perfect for my mood today.

Trying to be a ray of sunshine but not quiet achieving it. After the stress of the last few days I was aiming to have a nice day. At home sorting out the works payroll run while listening to a fine collection of relaxing music. Not forgetting to fit in a run around a slightly extended lunch break. Well that was the plan.

Unfortunately as I was heading for bed at 1am I noticed son had lost a button on his school jacket. That’s a School negative and would send him into meltdown again. So the half asleep Dad with the sewing abilities of a drunk Penguin spent most of the night basically sewing various fingers onto the front of the said jacket. How difficult can this really be. As a guide it took me 40 minutes and three hot drinks to just thread the needle. At one stage I must have dozed off as I managed to head-but the sewing box. Eventually I made bed at just after 4am with a pretty decent sewing job completed. Unfortunately now I was wide awake and sleep passed me by for another night.

Relaxation and no sleep are not a great combination. Especially when the old CD player annoyingly developed a jump while playing my favourite cds. Thankfully I made it to my run. An almost enjoyable run until my sleep deprivation led me literally down the wrong path. Normally the right one but since the last floods – not a great one. The ground was becoming increasingly squelchy until I came to the large beck. Normally a nice wooden bridge joins both sides of the path. Unfortunately the bridge collapsed months ago and is currently heading towards the North Sea. So two choices do a u-turn which will add another hour to the run or jump the beck. The need to restart work ASAP dictated the mad option. I guess I can just about jump the beck – it’s only about 6 feet. I hit the long jump perfectly and unbelievably sailed clear over the beck. My moment of triumph was short lived. As quick as my considerable momentum tried to take me forward my left foot tried to sink into the mud. Then the dreaded muddy suction sound and a foot reluctant to come out for air. Something had to give. My foot released unfortunately my shoe didn’t. Hoping around on one leg while trying to prize the missing trainer from its muddy grave. Unfortunately gravity always wins and my exposed white sock sunk into the mud. When the trainer was rescued it was full of thick cold mud. Lovely running in that for the final 2 miles. At least my left foot got a free mud bath.

But here’s the rub. To take my mind off the mud drenched foot I replayed memories in my head. Happy memories of my partner. Passing one particular farm field I was taken back about 16 years. A late sunny evening walk. Maybe one too many wines. Then trying to make snow angels in that fields wheat crop. Completely forgot that one. It’s such a treat when you discover keys to long lost memory doors.

The mood darkened a bit on news that son has to revise for two tests on Monday morning AND spelling tests will now happen every week. Deep joy. So yes it’s been a day which could have been really uplifting but never quite managed to shake off the dark clouds. Maybe tomorrow the sun will shine.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it must be a Swiss Sunday. It’s my little tribute to that beautiful country.

I had a completely different set of photos lined up. Proper high alpine ones. But this week I’ve had one image in my head. It’s featured in a few late night dreams. No mountain landscape here. Just one house balcony. The house is in Spiez. It’s on a lovely little street behind the towns Schloss (castle). At least once on every trip we would have to walk past the house. On the house balcony there are a couple of human size fantasy models. Son loves them.

Drag yourself away from fantasy Middle Earth and you quickly get views like these.

Then it’s a view across the Lake.

Spiez is such a beautiful town. Sandwiched between the mountains and Lake Thun.

Mind wrestling

Yorkshire weather. Good running weather. Why would I want to run in dry warm windless conditions. Well that’s what I tell myself. Maybe I’m like Count Dracula. I would turn to dust in direct sunlight. I wonder what I would do if someone offered me the chance though.

I’m mind wrestling with something at the moment. My partner was an epic traveller. She visited so many countries. It was her extravagance. From her late teens she would save up during the year for one great adventure. Family and her adventures was what she lived for. The adventures only stopped when we became a family. Her dream was that when our son became older we could have adventures together. The two places she always talked about was New Zealand (would have been her first time) and Chile. She always said that we would all love Chile.

Then life happened.

I really want to complete those journeys for her. Our Autism World may preclude that. Circumstances may preclude it. But we will see. I most admit a part of me doesn’t want to do those trips. It’s just not right that it would only be the two of us.

Sorry I digress. Back to my mind wrestling. So many adventures and so many photographs. All sat neatly and well organised in carefully stored albums. Here is the dilemma. Part of me wants to do a retrospective photo journal. Tell her travel story. Her trip to the Soviet Union (gives you an idea of the timeframe) maybe would be a great starting point. YET another part of me recoils at the idea. What if she hates that idea. What if I’m breaking some unwritten bond of trust. It’s like having two competing voices on either shoulder each shouting differing viewpoints on life.

She’s not here anymore. What’s the problem!

YOU KNOW SHE WOULD SAY NO. I CAN’T BELIEVE YOUR SERIOUSLY THINKING ABOUT THIS!

But this feeling is something I’ve grown used to over these three years. On virtually every major decision I have these doubts. ‘What do I want to do’ balanced against ‘what would she do’. I try to see the world through my eyes and at the same time through her eyes. Problem is that we were two completely different characters. We each had our own unique take on the world. We would frequently disagree on the right answer. Often we would compromise. I’m still trying to compromise now. Yet I can’t replicate her thought process. I never could and I never will. I’m probably getting her point of view completely wrong. But I still do it.

Maybe other people do this. Maybe it’s just me sinking further into cabin fever.

So am I going to publish this travel journal? I don’t know. WE still haven’t decided.

Creaky World Tour 5

It’s been a while since we arrived in Strasbourg on our Creaky World Tour.

Let’s see how far around the world I can get only powered by my battered old stationary exercise bike, dog walking and local runs. As my fitness tracker has died I will be using a suitable alternative for the distance calculations – Pokemon Go. So might even catch a few Pokemon on the way.

Since the 16th September my battered body has recorded the following distances.

Exercise Bike – 528km

Walking – 125km

Running – 205km

That’s a grand total of 858km.

The first stop off point is to Kitzbuhel. That’s 490km. That’s Kitzbuhel in Austria. It’s on my bucket list. Just once I would love to go to the famous Downhill Ski Race here. The Hahnenkamm. It’s just about the most demanding course on the world circuit. Every year I sit in front on the TV with my mug of coffee and watch the brave skiers fly down this scary rollercoaster at speeds of up to 142km/h (88mph). We also play a game. Who is the first person to spot Arnold Schwarzenegger in the crowd. Thanks to the Red Bull and Zimbio websites for the photos.

So we have a bit more distance left in the tank and with a fair wind we can just about reach beautiful Vienna. That’s a trip of 370km.

Vienna is the capital of Austria and has been ranked the city with the highest quality of life in the world. Its been top for the last ten years (Mercer Quality of Living Survey). It was just about my partners favourite city. She would often reminisce about going to the wonderful Vienna State Opera House (Staatsoper). Thank you to Austria.info and Mozart.co.at for the photos.

Waterfall

Although England does do an awful lot of water it’s not blessed with that many truly epic waterfalls. But we do have the occasional spectacular one.

High Force in Teasdale.

The Falls are about an hours drive from us. We haven’t been since our world changed. We had planned to go there as part of our school holiday road trip. But as I was packing up the picnic

Dad I’m not sure I’m ready to go there yet.

I can so understand. It had suddenly dawned on our son the importance of the memory associated with High Force. It was 2016. The three of us spent a lovely hour walking around the waterfall then we ended up in the local pub for lunch. Son had sausages and chips. We had soup and fresh bread. Finished off with some highly calorific sweet. It was the last time we went out for a meal as a family.

This had completely slipped my mind. Not the forensic mind of number one son.

“It’s a long drive son.”

It’s a very long drive, probably bad for the environment.

“Its raining and very grey. Probably going to be cold.”

It’s very wet Dad.

“What do you fancy doing then.”

How about having the picnic in front of the television while watching the new Scooby Doo movie.

“That sounds a cracking plan Son.”

So we enjoyed sandwiches, crisps, fruit and cakes watching Return to Zombie Island. Yes a change of plan. But the right change of plan. We will visit High Force one day. But not this wet Friday.

Accidents happen

I bet if I leaned on that hay bale it would end up rolling down the hill and smashing into my car like a guided missile.

During my life one of the truths I have leant repeatedly is – accidents happen. I am accident prone. Always have been. Always will be. Big ones. Small ones. Ones that hurt. Ones that make you laugh. Ones that get you into trouble. Ones that make you embarrassed. Ones that make you cry. Just too many to mention. Some notable ones include

  • Breaking my arm balancing on a stool. Then breaking my other arm within 3 hours of having the pot removed. Same Doctor had to put the new pot on who had taken just taken the old one off.
  • Dropping a toilet roll just bought from the shop and watching it unravel as it rolls down the High Street. The High Street was on a hill and I dropped it at its highest point.
  • Falling out of a window while trying to paint it.
  • The door on a temporary toilet jammed at a festival and it took an hour for me to be released.
  • Trying to hammer a hanging basket onto next doors fence and accidentally pushing most of the fence over.
  • Breaking my finger trying to put up a deck chair.
  • Using a staple gun and stapling my thumb to a piece of wood
  • Breaking my little toe when I accidentally kicked the toilet.
  • As a kid playing cricket on the back field and managing to hit the best stroke (shot) of my life straight through our toilet window. A wonder shot of 100 yards. Unfortunately Dad was on the toilet at the time. Thankfully my ‘a big boy did it and ran away’ excuse worked.
  • Managed to get a pea stuck up my nose. Staggeringly our son did the same thing many years later.
  • Split my leggings a third of the way up a 4 hour cliff climb. The climbers below are still in counselling after all those years.
  • I saved up for a new watch. Within 5 minutes of buying it I had tripped over and smashed the face.
  • I was trying to pull my trousers up after using the cramped toilet on a speeding French TGV. Unfortunately I lost balance and exploded out through the toilet door and into the crowded carriage. Busting my head open as my hands were still desperately trying to pull the trousers up past my knees. The international shame.

So accidents happen. All you can do is try to smile and learn from them. Mostly no ones fault. They just happen.

Our Son asked if he could borrow my Tablet to play the chess app. After a few minutes the mad dog jumped on him and started licking him. In the confusion our Son forgot about the Tablet and must have rolled on it. A few minutes later we had a very bent piece of tech. Quite a bit of the touch screen is knackered and beyond repair. The poor kid was mortified. I’m so pleased I didn’t shout or be in any way angry. I know accidents happen. Thankfully he cheered up eventually. Re-telling the French Train Toilet incident helped. It shows that I didn’t intend to bare my buttocks but all I had done was not anticipate a particularly bumpy track section and a crap door. It’s life and things are sent to test us.

So I will make the best of a broken tablet until I can save up for a new one (or a refurbished one). Sorry in advance if you get some strange spellings on my posts of from my comments – the on screen keyboard is now possessed and rather random. Very apt that it’s Halloween. When the new one comes I will make sure that before either of us use it that it’s enclosed in a protective case. Because accidents can and will happen.

Dream Bar

The Yorkshire fields are rapidly becoming boating lakes. Very tempting for a young mad dog. Not so tempting for the owner faced with cleaning the mud laden hound. Then faced with cleaning the mud strewn house.

Son had finally gone to bed and I started on some late night work. I wasn’t hopeful as I was already fighting the urge to sleep. But needs must. I think Apple or Microsoft should take account of tiredness in the design of apps. How many people fall asleep while using things like spreadsheets. Maybe special biometric sensors on the keys or touch screens that detect oncoming snooze episodes. This should then trigger either the playing of 100db Mongolian Heavy Metal or sharp electric shocks. I probably needed both last night.

So yes I fell asleep at the keyboard. This brought the onset of a recurring dream coming back for another outing in my mind cinema. A dream I have had for probably 20 years now. It’s always the same. A great hill walk with friends ending up in a Bar. But this is no ordinary Bar. This one is carved into the base of a gigantic cliff face. No greenery just an environment of stones and cliff faces. Inside you get a traditional UK pub. Roaring fire. Dart Board. Landlord polishing his pint glasses. A chalk board listing today’s special food. It always ends as we get our gleaming glasses of Black Sheep Bitter. Again I woke last night with a jump with that same unnerving feeling. That dream is so real. Too real not to be a real memory. I just can’t recall where that Bar is. So as one side of my mind tries to find the errors on the ever so boring spreadsheet the other side churns through places I’ve visited trying to locate this elusive Cliff Face Bar.

The dream has become so engrained that this imaginary Bar is on my bucket list of places to visit. Just need to find it. I keep hoping that one day I will come across a photo of a place just like this. A dream that comes true. It could happen surely. Look at this Swiss Hotel (thanks To Trip Advisor for the photo)

Sadly this stunning place is not the dream location. But it gives hope. The same hope that one day all our dreams do start to come true. Those so missed special ones return into our life’s. But until that time let’s keep those dreams alive. Let’s make new dreams. Let’s live.

Swiss Sunday – The second First.

We left last Sunday having just arrived at the top of a little mountain which is special to me. The FIRST.

The First is a smallish mountain overlooking the beautiful Swiss Town of Grindelwald.

It is 7100 feet high and it takes about 25 minutes on the mini cable car to the top. You can just sit on the grass and drink in the the views.

At the top you can have fine Swiss food and drink

Or enjoy high level walks.

Or the brave can fly at breakneck speed.

Or you can do a number of platform walks across the cliff face or into space. Only for those with a great head for heights (or in this case drops).

The First is just a fun mountain. Every time you visit here you can do something different. So many memories available to be made. Just goes to show that you don’t need to be the biggest to be one of the best.