A Day In The Life

 

And don’t forget the joker! – Lemmy Kilmister

 

My irritability keeps me alive and kicking…
– Magazine, Song from under the Floorboards

 

Sometimes when you’re having a bad day, you have a good day. I have often noted that I seem to do better when I have a small inconvenience or minor annoyance to overcome. Case in point – I quite appreciate having a small cold when I’ve got a job interview. It somehow stops me stressing as much. Maybe it makes me live more “in the moment”.

This happened today. I was tired from being up late-ish with my toddler, then I couldn’t sleep because of monkey-mind worrying about money and how to save it, planning a potential trip to Australia, work stuff etcetera. This morning I woke with a scratchy throat after weird dreams.

So you know what? I gave myself permission just get on with it and I was actually really efficient. I dropped the kids at kindergarten and daycare, I went to Migros supermarket to spend obscene amounts of money because it was the Farmmania Jokertag and I wanted to get one for each kid (for the non-Swiss residents: Migros is the national supermarket, which has an annual game of figurines to collect. You get a ‘lucky dip’ packet containing a figurine when you spend a certain amount and on special days they have an extra-special “Joker” figurine that you have to spend even MORe to get. This year the game is farm-themed and today’s Joker was a crappy plastic tractor, but I digress). Anyway, I was home by 9.30am, ready to help Himself start building his website. But he didn’t really need me so I took myself off up to our newly created attic writing space for a couple of hours.

And managed to do some decent plotting, as well as writing a few thousand words on my novel. Oh, did I mention I’m writing a novel? Early days… early days. Mustn’t say too much.

Anyway, then I came back downstairs, paid some bills and we went to lunch. Had a good chat that somewhat allayed my fears about the possibly impending Australia trip (also early days, no more can be said yet!)

Then we went along to the local optician to get my new specs sorted. This is something that’s been hanging over my head for AAAGGEEES. I bought new frames online a while back and since then I have literally stood outside the optician at least three times hesitating… only to decide “nup, can’t face this today” so it was kind of major to cross this threshold. And then, wouldn’tcha know it, the optician RUINED my old glasses. OK so they were on the way out, but she did some funky cleaning thing to the lenses and they’re all peeling and fucked up now! OK so they were already a bit fuzzy, due to being pretty scratched and losing their UV coating or whatever, plus of course I’ve given birth in them – almost twice (I remembered to take them off the second time. Top tip: one does not need to see to give birth!) Anyway, I almost cried when she wrecked them (then did the Swiss thing of saying “it’s not my fault, it’s just something that happened” – yeah but on your watch, lady!). But I managed to turn it around by getting a free express service for the new ones by calling her out. I mean, I didn’t ask her to use her funky cleaning machine on my old faithfuls and they really are wrecked now. Annnyway, so expect a new-look Claire from tomorrow.

Then, because I had to wear my weird “other” glasses (an ill-advised purchase when I was trying to look like Kathleen Robertson in Boss) and I had a story to tell about why I was wearing them, it actually sparked a pretty decent convo in German with the Hort Frau – another win!

Plus, in the midst of all this, I somehow managed to change our internet package to one that’s almost half the price per month (er… let’s hope I don’t experience a crazy slowdown when I go to publish this blog and end up kicking myself). Something that’s been on my to-do list officially for about 2 months. Unofficially for about two years.

Anyway, so the takeaway is – sometimes if you’re feeling a bit crap, it can unexpectedly result in a sweet spot where you give no fucks and just crack on with stuff. I’m sure a psychologist could give a more scientific explanation of this phenomenon, but I’m just chuffed to have kicked some goals today.

And now I’ve written a blog post too. Tchüss !

 

The black in your blue

 

oeschinensee

 

Blue mountain water

Black-backed like lead paint or

Ash in the sky

An old school-desk painted over many times

A clean sort of grime

Watercolour liquid, semi-opaque

The silt of millennia

Ancient clues in aqueous solution

We splash like young fools

As the earth revolves

Cradled in the bowl

of a mountain so old

Our tiny joy

A fleck against

All ecstasy and angst.

The black in your blue

I know it’s me too

The picture he gave me

Words that came through

Firefly times

All our past lives

Constantly strive

Never-forever… abides

Oh my narrow-wide mind

an always-restless bride

Reflected in

My blue-black eyes

 

Language as performance

Does Aussie anti-elitism stifle language learning? Discuss... Photo: Iain Scott

Does Aussie anti-elitism stifle language learning? Discuss… Photo: Iain Scott

Autumn has arrived in a shower of rain, the kids are starting a new year of school and krippe in Swiss-German and I’m thinking about language again this week. Himself and I have had the privilege of a private German tutor since the start of the year but she’s due to go on maternity leave so we’re winding that up. Plus Himself is on the job-hunt in earnest now. It feels like a new phase for many things.

Two wise women gave me some interesting insights about language recently. One friend in Australia pointed out the peculiar strain of Aussie anti-elitism that regards the ‘correct’ pronounciation of foreign words as wankery.  Her example was that, to the average Aussie, people who call a croissant a “Cwausson” are wankers. And it’s true. And there’s a part of me that feels that way too. And I didn’t quite realise it. And it’s a block. Not an insurmountable one, but a block nonetheless to mastering and using a foreign language properly. In fact, even when my own dear mother was here earlier in the year, she pointed out that she could hear me labouring away in German in my Aussie accent and she understood why I did it (because it somehow feels more ‘honest’) but she also insisted I needed to “go for it” a lot more with the Deutsch intonation if I want people to, say, understand what I’m saying. She is also right and a part of me feels that way too. (When I tried to explain this to Himself, he looked at me like I was crazy — is it any wonder he’s powering ahead in German so much more confidently than me!)

And just today, I was talking to a local friend about how I often get stupidly nervous speaking to groups — not even “public speaking”, which is a common enough fear — but just introducing myself in a group situation, even. Heart pounding, voice shaking, the works. Even in a small group. Even if we’re speaking English. It’s so embarrassing. (Does this happen to most people?) And my friend said that it was similar to how she often feels having to use German. “Because every time I speak in German in front of people, I’m on stage”. Gosh, how true that is! (It may be worth noting the friend is a professional stage manager). But again, it’s something I’d never articulated in that way. And it’s another mental block in my language-learning journey. (I should also note that I don’t get “stage-fright” every time I speak German anymore, thank goodness — my son’s krippe introduction session today went off almost without a hitch and almost entirely in Deutsch).

Anyway, as well as being one of the standard How’s-your-German-how-are-you-feeling-about-it conversations I have regularly with other expats, my friend and I were also talking about this stuff because I’m increasingly feeling as though I should do some spoken word / poetry slam type performance with my poems. And, while I’m pretty OK with the idea of this — I’m confident in my poems and I feel they’d work well in this environment — I’m deeply worried that my stage fright will fuck it up. What do I need to do? I’ve thought of singing lessons, which might help. But, ultimately, I don’t think there are any quick fixes beyond: practice, practice, practice. And ditto for the Deutsche sprechen, I guess.

Oh well, I hope at least in some small part, being able to recognise and articulate these stumbling blocks is a small step towards overcoming them.

What do you think? Do you need to thesp it up a bit with a new language? When, if ever, does it start to feel normal and not like you’re a putting on a show?

addendum: I  feel like a bit of a dork for posting this stuff about getting nervous/anxious when speaking to people. I’m not a complete social retard and I’m not even that shy in many situations, particularly one-to-one… really, usually, I swear… whatever. 

Mirror, mirror on the wall, Who gives the least fucks of all?

 

gnf

 

Give No Fucks Woman

Has hair like a gorgon

And cares less

 

Give No Fucks Woman

Trip-traps over Twitter

Slaying trolls, like a goddess

 

Give No Fucks Woman

Is strong, brave and a Queen

No, not a Disney princess

 

Give No Fucks Woman

A post-midnight Cinderella

Gives no fucks for her lost dress

 

Give No Fucks Woman, hey

I hear what you say

Please don’t repress

 

But, Give No Fucks Woman

Your words can drip poison

Snow White’s in distress

And though she’s a mess

(You don’t like her best,

barely rates your largesse)

Don’t you give a fuck about this?

 

Limmatschwimmen

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On the weekend I participated in the annual Limmatschwimmen. This is where around 4,500 people jump in the Limmat River and float 2 kilometres through central Zurich from the Frauenbad to Flussbad Oberer / Unter Letten. It’s the one day of the year you can do this, the rest of the time there’s boat traffic, not to mention you’re liable for a hefty fine and risk being swept away by the current if you jump in anywhere but the approved spots (eg: Letten). You have to purchase tickets to the Limmatschwim online on the Wednesday beforehand. This year, tickets sold out in 8 minutes. I was lucky enough to get four (the maximum) for myself and three mates.

I was pretty excited before the event. After 2.5 years living in this city, I feel like I know this stretch of the Limmat quite well. I’ve walked alongside it, over it, photographed and looked across it, shown it off to many visitors, even swum in it at Oberer Letten. So the idea of floating the entire “city” length of the river was pretty thrilling to me.

This year’s event, the 52nd Limmatschimmen, was postponed by the organisers by one week and they definitely made the right decision. The previous Saturday was wet and about 19 degrees. This Saturday was gloriously sunny and 31.

Everyone gets given a floatie as part of the ticket. This year they were sting-rays, which my 5yo was very excited about (he loves all sea creatures). In previous years it was a turtle. I rigged up a “waterproof camera” using my old phone and a plastic ziplock bag, so apologies that some pics are a little blurry.

Floating through the city, filled with nervous excitement, grappling with my silly camera, I think I almost forgot to enjoy myself at first. It’s funny, you know. I love water and swimming and I’m a good swimmer, and yet my worst nightmares (as in real, sleeping nightmares) involve tidal waves. Growing up in Australia, my parents taught me to Never Turn Your Back on the Sea. I have a love/fear/healthy respect relationship with water, I guess. Anyway, I finally relaxed about halfway along. The current through the city was not particularly strong and the participants were nicely spaced out. One of the reasons I adore Zurich is for events like this is there’s enough people to feel buzzy but it’s not horribly crowded (I can only imagine how rammed and unsafe-feeling an event like this would be in London!) The river is not particularly cold at this time of year – it flows out of Lake Zurich, which is a balmy 21-25 degrees in summer. Even so, by the end of the nearly-one-hour swim I was a bit chilly, and welcomed the cups of hot, sweet tea they gave out! My friend’s husband and son followed us by road the whole time and took some great pics (in the slideshow) and my husband and kids waited near the end to wave us on (you have to be 12+ to participate in the Limmatschwim). I was on such a high afterwards, I just kept looking at all the photos and couldn’t get to sleep until nearly midnight!

Doing an event like this, such a Swiss/Zurich thing, really makes me feel anchored to this place. I have to take a moment to reflect how far I’ve come from my miserable, lonely first-year in Zurich to rounding off this wonderful third summer here by floating through town on a simply stunning afternoon with friends and family in attendance.

This summer in Zuri has been pretty wonderful in general. We’ve had loads of visitors; from random people passing through town and meeting up for just a few hours to a whole week of my brother and sister-in-law staying right around the corner. We’ve done some great things, which I’d like to note, just to remind myself when I read this back in the months/years to come:

MOUNTAINS CLIMBED: Rigi and Pilatus

FESTIVALS and EVENTS: The once-every-three-years Züri Fäscht, Zurich Street Parade (well sort of, we were in town early in the day swimming at Mythenquai so we caught some of the vibe), August 1/Swiss National Day fireworks (just a local celebration setting of a few poppers with friends), our 5yo’s Indianerfest to celebrate the end of the school year, the Dolder Classic vintage car show and, of course, Limmatschwimmen 2016

SWAM IN: Lake Zurich, Lake Geneva, Evian pool, Thonon-le-Bains pool, the River Töss, the Oeschinensee, Limmat River, Thermalbad Zurich, Novum spa Baden, Baden Freibad, Freibad Allenmoos (our local). I love all the swimming here!

With September fast approaching and the kids back at school /starting nursery, it feels like summer’s just about over now, but it’s certainly finished on a high!

Swimming in the Oeschinensee

Swimming in the Oeschinensee – have you seen enough pics of me in bathers yet?

The Dolder Classic car show

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Over the weekend, my brother and sister-in-law were in Zurich and since he’s a big car guy (and proud owner of an awesome Valiant Charger) we thought we’d check out the Dolder Classic vintage car show.  I think this is the first vintage car show I’ve attended and I really enjoyed it.

It was a nice scene – people just cruised in with their cars and would stay for a few hours (it seemed) then head off. Some of the vehicles were for sale, others just for show. Afterwards we checked out a few more beauties in the car park as well.

There were lots of muscular Mustangs, curvy Stingrays, a Delorean, some real golden oldies and, of course, many Porsches — I think Porsche must be Zurich’s favourite marque, you see so many on the streets here. My favourite was probably the superb Amilcar Pégase from 1936 – the workmanship and details were exquisite. It was an Amilcar that caused the death of Isadora Duncan (her scarf got caught in the wheels and broke her neck) so that’s an interesting bit of historical trivia.

As well as drooling over all the pretty motors, the people-watching was lots of fun too. I enjoyed seeing a family of six emerge from a two-door Mustang, some elegant old dudes in an elegant, convertible Bentley, a stylish matron driving her zippy, royal blue 60s Porsche and a pair of rockers with face tatts, a vintage jalopy and a baby bump.

Anyway, I haven’t done a photo blog in a while and this really lends itself, so enjoy!