There’s a meme going around Facebook at the moment, to share your five favourite photos from this year which make you happy when I look back at them. I thought I’d share mine here as well. In chronological order:
Disclaimer: I’m sorry this has taken me so long. I’ve been sick. Honest. I’ve been to the doctor and everything. I might have to have that engraved on my tombstone, in the style of Spike Milligan whose tombstone reads, in Gaelic, “I told you I was sick.”
Oh, I’m not dying, by the way, just a drama queen. Anyway…
Mr Mac and I slept like logs in our hotel overlooking the water on Friday night. So much so that we nearly didn’t make it for breakfast in the morning. Oh, and that would have been a shame because the hotel breakfast (incidentally, one of my most favourite things in life, a hotel breakfast) was superb. Hot things for the Anglo-saxons, cold things for the continentals, sweet things for the Italians and croissants for the French. And all the things for gutsoes, like me. There was even a DIY waffle bar which made waffles the size of your head!
Not long after breakfast, we made plans to meet up with Dominik, Katja and our new friends, Marcus & Kathy in the Gamla stan to get some touristy sightseeing done. Mr Mac and I took the Tunnelbana one stop from Slussen to Gamla stan. Actually, we could see the station from our hotel room but we didn’t know that at the time. (Not that it stopped us taking the train such a short way later, mind.) While we were taking the public transport that morning, we noticed a whole load of women, dressed in running gear taking the train with us. It was obvious that there was some sort of women’s event in the city that day and since the majority of them were flashing a vast amount of pink (running gear! Get your mind out of the gutter!), we figured it must be some sort of charity run for a breast cancer foundation.
First of all, we went for a walk up to the palace, to see the king. Because we hadn’t called ahead, the king was a bit busy to see us but he managed to throw together a quick changing of the guard in our honour.
There was a band and everything!
The palace was guarded by the Swedish army’s Livgardet, the Life Guards.
After the changing of the guard, we walked a couple of hundred metres to one of the most picturesque places I’ve seen; an old square, surrounded by fabulous architecture and home to the Nobel Museum, the Stororget.
Mr Mac and I were still fairly full from our huge breakfasts but our friends were hankering for something to eat. While the square has loads of little cafes and restaurants around to sit down it was incredibly busy so we headed to a place on the edge of Gamla stan for a bit of lunch instead.
We had the most amazing weather while we were in Stockholm and I would recommend anyone organise sunshine and temps in the low 20°s while visiting. We were able to sit outside this lovely little bar/resto and enjoy the sun while eating their fantastic food. Mr Mac and I did actually order something after all, a couple of starters, but I’ll tell you about the Swedish food we tried in another, separate, post. (Hint: OMG!)
So, after a good couple of hours sitting in the sun, soaking up the atmosphere we decided to head over the see Stockholm’s famous Guldrummet (Gold Room) in the Swedish History Museum. To do this, we took one of the passenger ferries, which are part of the public transport system in Stockholm from Gamla stan across the water to Djurgarden and then through Ostermalm, where the rich folks (who aren’t the king and queen) live.
Since we were walking through the classy part of town, when I saw a statue of a naked man…
Hey, they say you get good luck if you rub his willy and it was glinting in the sun so invitingly. I’m not passing up an opportunity like that!
The walk through this part of town was leafy and green and we discovered what all the women were up to as we stumbled upon their run through the Djurgarden.
As we found out later that night, it was a Swedish Mile run. A Swedish mile is 10Km! The woman who told is this is worth a blog post of her own, by the way. She love, love, LOVED my curly hair, “The most beautiful curly hair I’ve seen!” She was also drunk. But friendly. Have I mentioned yet how friendly the Swedish were?
We crossed the Djurgarden bridge which connects Djurgarden to Ostermalm and eventually found ourselves at the museum.
Jeez, but the Swedish know how to museum. This museum was wonderful, with a tour through viking times on the ground floor and a tour through Swedish history on a higher floor. The viking exhibition had exhibits from archaelogical digs, with lots of English for foreign visitors to tell the stories. Great for children too, with interactive displays using different media. Upstairs, the story of the history of Sweden was fascinating with some wonderful costumes on display with the rest of the exhibits. The Guldrummet was just as fabulous as you would expect, and expertly designed to create atmosphere and mystery around the treasures. We got kicked out of there. Not, as you might imagine, for planning a heist to steal the treasure, but because it was kicking-out time. If you find yourself in Stockholm, because who hasn’t, right?, I would highly recommend this museum for a visit.
And then we went and had more beers in the sun before a Nanna-nap and a night out on the tiles.
Preface: I know, I know. I’ve really neglected this blog. You know, at the end of August this year, this blog has been up and running (just) for ten years. Ten! Years! When I started to record all the nonsense which goes on in and around my family in Switzerland, the boys were just l’il tackers. This week, the eldest turned 21! So you can imagine, with two grown adult-children and one nearly-grown, they don’t want me splashing their antics all over the internet any more. And now I’m ten years-worth of happier and more content so I wonder, what in earth is there to blog about any more? But I want to try. I have so many things I want to share with you, if you’re still reading.
Did any of that even make sense? Probably not. Anyway, instead of blogging, lately I’ve been writing a personal diary of my daily comings and going. And on the weekend, a friend asked, “Are you going to blog about Stockholm?” so this entry is a bit of an edited copy & paste from my diary, of the first night, Friday. To hopefully get the blogging ball rolling again. Capisce?
So, Mr Mac and I went with friends to Stockholm for the weekend back at the beginning of September. These are our stories.
Yay! Stockholm day! But first, we had to get Mr Mac home from Ingolstadt (near Munich) and I had errands to run; namely to pick up his repaired gold chain from the Glatt Zentrum while giving Patrick’s girlfriend another driving lesson.
My plan was to…. well it didn’t work out so there’s no point in telling you, but I can say that Mr Mac only just made it home in time to drive out to the airport, get some essential duty-free shopping and have a beer in the lounge with our friends, Dominik & Katja. We were heading to Stockholm with them to celebrate Dominik’s birthday.
The flight to Stockholm was very sedate and lovely. Except I’ve realised how much I love flying solo. God, Mr Mac talks so much and all I want to do is put my head back, eyes closed and enjoy flying. Luckily, he and Dominik were across from each other on the aisle so Katja and I, on the window seats, were eventually left to enjoy the flight in peace and read the in-flight Swiss magazine which was serendipitously devoted to Stockholm (you can read the articles here)!
We landed in Stockholm on time and headed straight for the Arlanda Express, the train which takes you from the airport to central Stockholm. It was fast, on time and had wifi and windowsills! It was also very expensive. But it got us where we wanted to go. Once we reached Central (the name of the central railway station in Stockholm- imaginitively named), Dominik showed us how to catch the Tunnelbana (the Stockholm underground railway) to the closest stop to our hotel. Easy peasy.
The hotel, Hilton Slussen, was huge and glitzy and lovely. We had the most wonderful view over the water (Stockholm is built on islands, did you know that? I didn’t.) to the Gamla stan (“old town”). We had a little rest before heading back to Central to meet up with Dominik, Katja and two of their friends, for the evening.
After an ice-breaker drink (oh, presecient!) in the hotel bar, we headed out to the first treat Dominik had planned for us all, an hour in Stockholm’s Ice Bar. Yes, a bar, made of ice with a temperature of -7 friggin’°! The drinks are even served in glasses make of ice.
The way it works is, you have to book to get in, and you can book for an hour at a time. Because it’s so cold, the ice bar provides you with a big thermal cloak, with thermal gloves (previously worn by about a gajillion other people but I tried not to think about that. Next time, bring your own gloves.) and people don’t generally stay for more than an hour at a time. The price of the first drink is included in the entry fee. I can’t remember what I had but it was apparently one of the more popular choices. The bar itself was made entirely of ice, with icy air being blown from big vents overhead. There was even a wee sort-of snug made of ice, with an ice table and ice chairs. Of course, it was hogged something shocking so we weren’t able to sit in there and take a photo. We all had a great time, in the novel environs but got cold at around the 40 minute mark so we decided against another ice cocktail (but not before having a competition to see who could lick a hole in their ice glass first.)
After the ice bar, we headed out to Katja & Dominik’s favourite bar in Stockholm, where Craig and I were promised the best Bloody Mary we had ever tasted. And they weren’t wrong. The barman, has a special recipe mix of Worcestershire sauce and tabasco which he uses to make the drink with and they were flamin’ delicious!
I also had a French Martini...
and Mr Mac, a Cinnamon-Struck, something creamy and cinnamony but we made our excuses and left relatively early in the evening, reminding the four young ‘uns that we’re very old and need more sleep than they do.
Also, we were starving and wanted midnight snacks on the way home. We got ‘em.
Just for good measure… Stockholm at night. I call this…
… not exactly “hate about you,” but, “10 Things Foreigners in Switzerland Don’t Get.” This was in my Facebook feed this morning and I thought I’d translate it for you, for another glimpse into Swiss life.
- How early everyone gets out of bed. Even on the weekends! (If your Swiss naturalisation depended on getting out of bed early, I’d never qualify.)
- That nobody complains that sometimes you can only do your laundry once per month. (communal washing machines in apartment blocks. That was one of the most important criteria for Mr Mac finding us a place to live, all those years ago, “I have to be able to wash daily!”)
- That the Swiss can simply not understand how anyone could eat fondue when it’s not Winter. (You’ll only find tourists eating fondue in the warmer months.)
- That the Swiss are always respectably dressed, even just to pick up the milk. (Well, the get out of bed so damn early, they’ve probably done a whole day’s work by the time I’m ready to get the milk.)
- That all of Switzerland thinks it’s totally acceptable that because of road construction works, there are traffic jams every summer. (That and half of Germany driving down to Italy on the same day.)
- That after one lives in Switzerland only six months, one can be annoyed by their neighbour flushing the toilet after 10pm. (Seriously, this is not just something you might read on Buzzfeed and think, “that can’t be right!” It’s a real rule for living in close quarters with other. ie. in an apartment block.)
- That Swiss parties end at 11.30pm. Latest! (Perhaps not a hard and fast rule but they do have to get up at the crack of sparrow’s, you know.)
- That your Swiss host will start to tidy up around you, while the party is still going. (Ahem. Guilty. But I did that in Australia, too. I never got the hoover out though, which someone did to me, once.)
- That your Swiss host will expect you to help with the washing up. (Rubbish! Maybe I just have great friends who have always refused my help when offered.)
- That the Swiss love spontaneity. As long as it’s planned. (True story. )
With big love to Claudia, my Swiss BFF, for help with no.s 5 & 6.
You might remember back in the dark ages when I had a crush* on Robbie Williams. I was so madly in love with him, I didn’t see how it would be possible that I could ever die without having had a go on him, if you know what I mean. *big, salacious wink*
Anyway, he got really boring on a personal level, got married, had a baby and I’m so totally over that now. Musically, he wasn’t doing really well either. I’ve pretty much disliked every record he made since Intensive Care (and even that wasn’t very good) I’ve been so disinterested in him that I didn’t even know he was releasing a new album until I saw it in the shops. I wasn’t going to bother buying it but curiosity got the better of me and before I knew it, I was playing Swings Both Ways in the car. And loving it.
It’s been a long time since I wanted to sing along to a Robbie Williams CD but this one definitely makes me want to belt out the lyrics at the top of my voice while driving alone. The first two tracks written with Guy Chambers, Shine my Shoes & Go Gentle, are reminiscent of good, old Robbie. Lily Allen’s voice on Dream a Little Dream is gorgeous and the double (and single) entendres are overflowing in the title track with Rufus Wainwright. I’m not sure there’s a better sing-along-a-tune than the Jungle Book classic, I Wan’na Be Like You and the reworking of Supreme into Swing Supreme is fab. Apart from two weak spots (the dreary Snowblind and Nobody Likes a Fat Popstar which is a proper whiny waste of time), I’m going to give Robbie’s new CD two thumbs up. More like this, please Robbie!
*crush? it was true love, I tell you.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a Google Doodle in German-speaking countries celebrating the life of German poet, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff. I had never heard of her so I read her entry in Wikipedia and was delighted to discover she had written a poem about Säntis, a Swiss mountain I love to visit and to take visitors to. (I’ve written about and shared photos of Säntis a couple of times here already.) I had a wee look about online and managed to find the very poem. I had a go at translating it myself but got bored very quickly. Imagine my relief when I also discovered some kind soul had already done that! So here’s the poem in German thanks to Projekt Gutenberg:
Die Rebe blüht, ihr linder Hauch
Durchzieht das tauige Revier,
Und nah und ferne wiegt die Luft
Vielfarb’ger Blumen bunte Zier.
Wie’s um mich gaukelt, wie es summt
Von Vogel, Bien’ und Schmetterling,
Wie seine seidnen Wimpel regt
Der Zweig, so jüngst voll Reifen hing.
Doch sucht man gern den Sonnenschein
Und nimmt die trocknen Plätzchen ein;
Denn nachts schleicht an die Grenze doch
Der landesflücht’ge Winter noch.
O du mein ernst gewalt’ger Greis,
Mein Säntis mit der Locke weiß!
In Felsenblöcke eingemauert,
Von Schneegestöber überschauert,
In Eisenpanzer eingeschnürt:
Hu, wie dich schaudert, wie dich friert!
Kein Vogel zirpt, es bellt kein Hund;
Allein die bunte Fliegenbrut
Summt auf und nieder übern Rain
Und läßt sich rösten in der Glut.
Sogar der Bäume dunkles Laub
Erscheint verdickt und atmet Staub.
Ich liege hier wie ausgedorrt
Und scheuche kaum die Mücken fort.
O Säntis, Säntis! läg’ ich doch
Dort grad’ an deinem Felsenjoch,
Wo sich die kalten, weißen Decken
So frisch und saftig drüben strecken,
Viel tausend blanker Tropfen Spiel:
Glücksel’ger Säntis, dir ist kühl!
Wenn ich an einem schönen Tag
Der Mittagsstunde habe acht
Und lehne unter meinem Baum
So mitten in der Trauben Pracht;
Wenn die Zeitlose übers Tal
Den amethystnen Teppich webt,
Auf dem der letzte Schmetterling
So schillernd wie der frühste bebt:
Dann denk’ ich wenig drüber nach,
Wie’s nun verkümmert Tag für Tag,
Und kann mit halbverschlossnem Blick
Vom Lenze träumen und von Glück.
Du mit dem frischgefallnen Schnee,
Du tust mir in den Augen weh!
Willst uns den Winter schon bereiten?
Von Schlucht zu Schlucht sieht man ihn gleiten,
Und bald, bald wälzt er sich herab
Von dir, o Säntis! ödes Grab!
Aus Schneegestäub’ und Nebelqualm
Bricht endlich doch ein klarer Tag;
Da fliegen alle Fenster auf,
Ein jeder späht, was er vermag.
Ob jene Blöcke Häuser sind?
Ein Weiher jener ebne Raum?
Fürwahr, in dieser Uniform
Den Glockenturm erkennt man kaum.
Und alles Leben liegt zerdrückt,
Wie unterm Leichentuch erstickt.
Doch schau! an Horizontes Rand
Begegnet mir lebend’ges Land!
Du starrer Wächter, laß ihn los,
Den Föhn aus deiner Kerker Schoß!
Wo schwärzlich jene Riffe spalten,
Da muß er Quarantäne halten,
Der Fremdling aus der Lombardei:
O Säntis, gib den Tauwind frei!
And in English from German Poems in Translation:
The vine blooms, its mild aroma
Pervades the dewy environs,
And near and far the breeze sways
The colorful adornment of flowers.
How it wafted around me, how it hummed
With birds, bees, and butterflies,
How its silken banner fluttered
The branch, so newly hung with ripeness.
Still one seeks out the sunshine
And takes a seat in a dry place;
For at night the departed winter
Still creeps in at the edges.
Oh you, my somber, grand old man,
My Säntis with the white locks!
Hemmed in by blocks of stone,
Blanketed in snow drifts,
Girdled in icy armor:
How you shiver, how you freeze!
No birds chirp, no dogs bark;
Only the colorful flying creatures
Buzz up and down across the fields
And warm themselves in the heat.
Even the dark foliage of the trees
Seems thickened and breathes the dust.
I lie here as if dried up
And scarcely shoo away the flies.
Oh Säntis, Säntis! I’d rather lie
There–against your rocky shoulders,
Where the cold, white blankets
Spread themselves out so fresh and lush
A play of thousands of pure drops:
Blessed Säntis, it’s cool where you are!
When the autumn crocus weaves
The amethyst tapestry across the valley
Over which the last butterfly, shimmering,
Quivers just like the first:
Then I consider a little,
How everything is now declining day by day,
And with half-closed eyes, I can
Dream of spring and of happiness.
You with the freshly fallen snow,
You bring sorrow to my eyes!
Will you already hurry the winter to us:
From ravine to ravine, one sees it gliding,
And soon, soon it will roll down to us
From you, oh Säntis! a bleak grave!
Out of snowdust and smoky clouds
A clear day finally breaks;
Then all the windows fly open,
Then everyone spies what he can.
Are those blocks houses?
Is that flat space a pond?
Truly, one can hardly discern
The clock tower in this garb;
And all life is crushed,
As if smothered under a shroud.
But look! at the edge of the horizon
Vibrant land greets me.
You vigilant warden, let the warm breeze
Loose from the prison of your bosom!
Those blackish cracks in the ridges,
That must be where it is quarantined,
The visitor from Lombardy:
Oh Säntis, release the warm wind!
I was in Scotland this weekend with my family (the ones who live in Scotland, the Aussies stayed in Switzerland) to attend the funeral of a dear, much-loved aunt, my mum’s sister-in-law. At her requiem mass, my cousin read this poem by Dylan Thomas. I’m posting it here because I want to remember it.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
A while ago I saw some big balls (*sniggers*) of chunky acrylic yarn for sale when I was in Coop buying my usual crochet fixin’s. They had some pretty colours so I bought a couple each in purple and pink. It took me a while to decide what to do with it but I had a thought last weekend and I started kitting. At first I used the pink yarn, thinking I would knit a pretty cushion cover with a cable pattern on one side and some other pattern on the reverse side. Long story short, I knitted up two pink panels and they were far too small, despite my enthusiastic stretching and fitting of my knitting in progress. I put them away, told myself they were only practise anyway and set about knitting the same in the purple. Et voilà! I give you my purple, knitted cushion cover.
I say “my” but actually, as soon as I showed it proudly to James in an “isn’t your mother clever” kind of way he asked, “Is that for me? Can I have it?” Since he didn’t seem so bothered by/to notice any of the mistakes, I gave it to him.
Mistakes- I made a few. You can see in the cable side, not only are there a few stitches where I purled instead of knitted (and vicki versi), I suffered from a bit of late cabling- how I managed that, I’ll never know- and even at one point, towards the end, forgot to cable all together. On the bee stitch side which I did from this tutorial, I’ve managed to mess up alternating stitches between knit and knit-one-below, creating the odd looking lines across the cushion. (There’s a whole other blog post in how I can’t do anything without messing it up, somehow, Seriously.) But all in all, I’m happy. Practise makes perfect and all that.
What do you think of my pom poms?
Anyway, back to when I was away in France. I had a most wonderful time, suitable for the season. I spent time with my lovely friend; we visited the Palace of Versailles (pics of that to follow); I ate more good food than was good for me; we had a special Christmas treat of a night in Paris. It was just what I needed.
And, as a special surprise, another lovely friend turned up as a surprise for the evening on Saturday night, my friend Vivi. Generous to a fault, she brought me this present of an embroidered bear which I had loved from first seeing it on her tumblr a couple of months ago. Vivi embroidered my bear as a bit of fun but sells gorgeous embroidery kits which she has designed and manufactured all herself on her website here and her Zibbit boutique here. If you’re a fan of embroidery, or have a loved one who is, please visit and have a look at Vivi’s gorgeous designs.
Then buy something.