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.

Graveyard visit

This is the local church and graveyard. The current church structure dates back to the 12th century but it’s likely that an early Saxon structure stood here before that. Inside there are parts of the church still in remarkably good condition from the 12th and 13th century.

The weather worn graveyard has a definite ancient feel to it. So many long forgotten graves. These places have a habit of making you think about your own life.

We still have my partners ashes in the house. We just haven’t found the right time to start the process. We did spilt them. Some for England and some for Switzerland. We’ve thought about many sites. We sort of have a draft plan in place. It struck me today that we have never once considered this graveyard. Really don’t know why.

The other thing that struck me was that I hadn’t been to my mums grave in nearly two years. It’s mums old family grave about 60 miles from here. What makes it worse is that I scattered the ashes by myself. I’m the only one who has been there since then. Really must address that this year. Sadly I think I said the exact same thing last year. Life always seems to get in the way. So many demands. But those demands take over. My Dad was cremated in 1987. His ashes were scattered. I can’t even remember exactly where. I’ve never went to that place. Never been in 32 years. So now I need to ask my brother and sisters. Just hope one of them can remember.

So many things to do. Even so, surely I should be able to find the time to pay one visit. To remember those who shaped and moulded our live’s. I came across a quote from David Eagleman which sets this whole thing in context;

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

For those of us who are not the likes of Shakespeare then this process is inevitable and extremely sobering. But that’s life. We need to make the best of it. So for the last three years I have spent a little time each and every day remembering. Last night it was 15 minutes. Remembering names which I’m not yet ready to send into the third stage. So each night names are called out and good memories recalled. I guess it’s my version of a graveyard visit.

I speak proper

These little beauties seemingly flower earlier every year. When we first moved here the snowdrops flowered mid February. These guys flowered mid March and the Daffodils arrived during April. I guess my Dad would have said something like ‘blimey I’ve only just planted me Goosegogs‘. Goosegogs is Yorkshire for Gooseberries.

Once a week we have school bagmageddon. Poor bairn (kid) is packed off lugging (carrying) two bursting at the seams bags. I wish someone would invent a Dr Who Tardis like school bag. Small on the outside yet massive on the inside. For bagmageddon he needs to take with him

  • Packed lunch as he rarely gets the chance to eat a school meal,
  • A drink as he rarely get the time to get a drink at school,
  • School iPad,
  • Mobile phone in case he misses the bus,
  • Pencil case for coloured crayons and felt tip pens,
  • Art brush,
  • Calculator,
  • Reading pen just in case he needs to use it,
  • French dictionary,
  • Book for reading – no dispensation for dyslexics so it can’t be a picture book,
  • Pen case including black pens, blue pens, green pens, red pens, HB pencil, ruler, protractor, rubber (eraser), pencil sharpener, highlighter pen and compass,
  • School planner,
  • Drama kit – plain black T-shirt, plain black tracksuit bottoms,
  • School homework books which are required for that day,
  • Bus pass,
  • Outdoor sports kit – football boots, white school sports top, blue school rugby shirt, blue football socks, school shorts or blue leggings, gum shield, shin guards,
  • Indoor sports kit (in case outdoor sports is not happening) so training shoes and white socks.
  • Could be even worse – if he played team sport for the school he might need to carry a hockey stick or cricket bat as well. When I was at school the teachers would call any boy with his own cricket bat – posh (rich) and then they would talk about learning to play cricket with a stick o’ Rhubarb.

That’s on top of the mandatory school uniform. Chuffing Eck (********* hell). It’s a logistical nightmare for the parent but that pales into insignificance compared to the poor kids trying to cope with all this. Yes the kids can pay for a locker but the lockers are not conveniently located so it’s almost impossible for them to get to them and back in the 10 minutes max between lessons. Hence the two expedition rucksacks. No wonder he is jiggered (very tired) when he gets home. Sometimes I expect to get a call to say he is rigweltered (stranded on his back) on the hoose on wheels (bus).

How times change when I went to school it was one small haversack. A haversack carefully painted with your favourite bands. Mine was emblazoned with Whitesnake, Bad Company, Black Sabbath and Saxon. The paint was the heaviest part of the bag. It had to be painted on thick as the poor bag would often be wanged aboot (thrown about). Inside was your butty (sandwich), some chuddies (chewing gum), footy top, shorts and Gola football shoes. Kids would take it in turns to bring in a Casey (football). Nowt (Nothing) else. The teacher handed out pencils for the school day. Then she took them back in when we headed back yam (home). Being the twonk (idiot) I was I frequently had to get Dad to recover my bag from the top of a tree after an all too successful wanging session. The bag also acted as an invaluable cushion to sit on when you got a croggy (getting a lift on the handlebars of a bike).

Basically it’s a different world now. But surely flowers blooming earlier is not great bit of man made progress. Sending kids into school with a mule train of kit is equally not a sign that the school system is progressing well. It’s also not great that we are slowly losing many of our local dialects.

Sithee (goodbye) until tomorrow.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it’s time for your weekly fix of Switzerland.

Let’s start off with two really important facts about Switzerland

  • They invented milk chocolate,
  • They consume more chocolate per person than any other country.

Got to love them….

Another couple of random facts about this great country. As the country is completely land locked water is not something you necessarily associate with it.

But it has over 1500 lakes.

Water accounts for about 4% of its surface area.

It’s lakes and mountains just go hand in hand. To create wonderful, dream like world.

Chocolate, lakes and mountains. What a country.

Say goodbye

This month we have already said goodbye to a couple of legends. The brilliant drummer Neil The Professor Peart and the wonderfully funny Terry Jones. In honour of Terry let’s all shout “He’s not the messiah, he’s just a very naughty boy”.

It’s so sad when we lose people we have grown to look up to and respect. But that’s the cycle of life. It’s inevitable that we have to say goodbye to people we admire, care for and love. Some burn bright and leave us far too soon. If anything the last few years have taught me it is that yes we shed tears but it’s so important to try and hold onto those precious memories.

Britain’s favourite mammal are in trouble. Big trouble. From 36 million in the 1950s to less than 1 million now. The last twenty years alone has seen a 50% drop in numbers.

Photo from the RSPCA

I remember hedgehogs being a common site. Every night we would see at least one hedgehog scurrying across the lawn. Things have changed. I can’t remember the last time I saw one in the wild. At least two or three years.

So it was time for local action. Today an hour was spent in the garden trying to make it more hedgehog friendly.

  • To try an link habitats some hedgehog highways have been built into the garden fences. 13cm wide fence holes needed to be made to allow the hedgehogs to move between gardens but this would have been equally attractive to Captain Chaos. Luckily work had some old piping which was about the right size. So hedgehog tunnels are now in place. Hopefully good for hedgehogs but not good for dogs.
  • The compost heap has been made open air. One is the sides has been removed.
  • A log pile has been built in one corner of the garden.
  • The log pile is now in a corner which will become the wild corner. I will let the grass grow and when it becomes warmer a wild flowers will be planted.
  • The random hedgehog dome house which has sat in the garage for years is now under a hedge near the compost heap and a hedgehog tunnel.
  • Each night a bowl of cat food and water will be put out. Important to remember to change and clean it every night. A bit of cat food will mean less for our big boy cat. This is good as he really needs to go on a diet.

It’s sad to say goodbye. Some goodbyes are inevitable and outside of our control. But some aren’t. Still time to save old friends like our hedgehogs.

Big Sky

Twenty years ago we came to look at our current home for the first time and we both immediately fell in love with it. Yes it was a bit small being a two bedroom bungalow. It needed a lot of work doing to it. Apart from a really small village store it was a long way from any other facilities. The garden was badly overgrown. It would have been so easy to drive onto the next house we were looking at. But then we saw the view from the back garden. That was it. We were sold. I remember saying – that’s a big sky.

It’s still a big sky.

Little did we know how important such an isolated garden would prove when we became parents. Apart from the occasional walker and farmer you don’t see any sign of human life. These days when a human is spotted son will scamper into the house until the all clear is given. I’m not sure he would ever surface if he lived in a busy city.

Today was a work from home day. In fact this is going to be a work from home week. So it’s one of those weeks which could go two ways. Bask in the splendid isolation or feel the intense loneliness. Well after a few hours today it was heading towards the latter. When that happens the house starts to feel very cold and very claustrophobic. So a few minutes later I had donned about 15 layers and was sat outside with the laptop. Sat under the big sky. Today it was particularly quiet. No walkers, no farmers, no farm animals. Just the occasional bird. Yes still lonely but now realising how extremely privileged I am to be sat under this big sky.

Then something struck me. Before the world changed we would always be sitting in the garden. Sat with a glass of wine relaxing talking about becoming parents. Then when son arrived we would sit and watch him play with his toy dinosaurs on the grass. The garden would become Jurassic World. Then after a few hours the big bad daddy ranger would have to locate all the dinosaurs. It’s amazing how camouflaged a raptor can be in a Yorkshire garden. Then the bad stuff happened. Yes I would go outside to play in the garden with our son. I would train and do exercises in the garden. But I didn’t /sit in the garden anymore. This was probably the first time I had sat in the garden since my partner had left us. I guess it just didn’t seem right. It was always our garden not my garden. Almost as if it had become fenced off. Today without thinking just maybe that fence has come down. If it’s sunny again tomorrow I will probably work outside again.

Time to work under the big sky again.

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.

Took its toll

A brief few moments of calm and mellow light before the dark clouds rolled in and it absolutely chucked it down – AGAIN. A photo sometimes doesn’t tell the entire story. It doesn’t show the person behind the camera. Caked in mud and water dripping off his sodden clothing. The lane in the distance looks inviting through the lens. Really! In practice it was stream. Torrents of mud and water making it a runners nightmare. But for these brief moments it did look pretty.

The other thing the photo doesn’t tell you about the lane is the surface condition. It’s a dirt track. Trying to navigate the exposed bedrock, ankle breaking potholes and badly eroded surfaces. I first ran down this path in 2010. The new nursery was close by so I could occasionally squeeze in a quick run before it was time to pick up our Son. Then it was a beautiful lane to run down. The surface was in a wonderful condition. Flat and ever so forgiving. Clearly the decade took its toll.

Sadly it was not the only thing that the decade took its toll on. As my MP3 player had run out of juice, pondering on this helped take my mind of the battering my knees and ankles were taking.

  • The Dreamer has seen his soul darkened,
  • The thick mop of black hair now more resembles a badly worn corridor carpet,
  • The body once fluid is a little more wooden,
  • The knees once strong are a little squeaky and in need of oiling,
  • The reliable feet now most definitely over pronating,
  • My pert bum is definitely more rounded. To the extent that it has developed its own gravitational pull.

But that’s life. I can still smile. I’ve still got my best feature – my long eyelashes. I’m probably stronger and fitter than I was back in 2010. I was drinking far too much in 2010 and now I’m completely tea total. My excellent sartorial taste is still with me – bright pink leggings today. I’m certainly more resilient these days.

So yes the decade has definitely taken its toll on me but that’s not to say that actually I might be a better person for it. Which neatly brings me to saying thank you to Di for tagging me for the Ten Years (2010-2020) challenge.

Play Along Guidelines

Please share a link to the creator of the tag-jesusluvsall.wordpress.com

Share some highlights for you over the past decade and if you want, a few low points

 Tag whoever you wish to.

Ask them some questions

Use any picture appropriate for such a tag.

Going with the last guideline first, I’m also going with Rory’s choice as it works on so many levels!

So here goes then….

Is there any year in the past decade that stands out as the best?

2010. Son was a bundle of joy and energy. This was probably the last year my partner was truly healthy. Best winter in ages. Plenty of snow which hung around for two months. It was properly cold. Didn’t feel like Yorkshire. It was a dry cold. More Alpine. It was snowman central in our garden. The first snowman lasted 10 weeks.

Has your taste in music changed in the past ten years or do you think music in general has changed?

Went into the decade a metal head who liked classical music. Left the decade as a metal head who liked classical music and who plays a little bit of Leonard Cohen.

Are you heavier or lighter than you were ten years ago?

I have much improved muscle mass density with some incremental drift on the biometrics …. in other words heavier….

How many cars have you owned in the past decade?

Two plus my partners car for 2 months until it was sold. I think she would have been smiling down at me as I tried to drive her automatic which was the size of a glove compartment.

Highlights of the decade

  • Son
  • Switzerland
  • Partner

Low points

  • Death
  • Constantly trying to push up hill on support for Son
  • Rupturing Bicep

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.

Swiss Sunday

It’s time for my most repeated words. Its Sunday so it must be time for a little bit of wonderful Switzerland.

I’ve been asked quite a few times why did you start going to Switzerland? Why did you keep going back? Why did you always stay in the same town, same hotel?

My partners grandad went there when he was a young man. The fresh alpine air helped him recover from a serious medical condition which had plagued him. He then introduced my partners beloved Dad to the country. Her Dad then spent a lot of time there after the Second World War when he worked with a charity helping injured service men.

Why always Switzerland. Why always Spiez. My partners family become close friends with the hotel owners. Part of the visit was to see old friends. Plus Aspergers families will understand the need for routine and familiarity.

But above all else. Just look at these physio.

That’s why.