Month: November 2015

About A River

Tower Bridge over the Thames

 

The Thames

Just is

As inevitable as umbrellas in London

 

Weighted down by warships

Pinned back

by buildings and monuments

 

To the past

And glittering present

Tidal but flowing ever onwards

 

Sectioned by bridges

The powerful, and delicate

All swept by greenbrown tides

 

I tried to make you mine

The Pool of London

Familiar but unknowable

 

Not like the sky over Newtown…

But I was rushing

And you were indifferent – so strong

 

And yet irresistible

Not pretty water

Like Sydney Harbour or the Zurichsee, but…

 

Compelling, unfathomable, there

Turner’s Thames too

Shimmering on the periphery

 

OK maybe a few drops

Seeped into my soul

Absorbed from a thousand cups of English tea.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Things I do miss about London

Love London

Love London

I was in London over the weekend for just 24 hours and I think I’m finally ready to talk about some of the stuff I do miss about the auld town. I wrote quite a long time back on the Things I Don’t Miss About London. And, to be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time pining over the place.

Now, there’s no point in me talking about gherkins, bridges, royal palaces or the London Eye. You can read about all that stuff at my old stomping ground  www.visitlondon.com. I’m talking about the real, nitty gritty things you miss about a place you lived in for several years. The stuff that gets under your skin (or under your fingernails and up your nose, if we’re talking about Tube-grime). So anyway, without further ado, here’s

What I miss about London:

The energy there’s an undeniable buzz to London, that’s somehow enhanced by

The grittiness  the sand in the oyster? I don’t know. There’s something romantic about a bit of grubbiness and peeling around the edges, something “real”. Or is that just me? Particularly on

The houses streets and streets and miles and miles of terraced homes. Some are immaculate. Most aren’t. Oh the humanity, and

People – people everywhere. You’re never really alone in London. It can be claustrophobic. It can feel safe and comforting. And fun. Also

Conversations I forget about the vicarious thrill of overhearing conversations. Even the inane ones as some geezer quizzes a shop owner on the merits of a certain firework. “So how long does it larst?” “Fifteen seconds eh? Not vewy long then… Wot about this one?” I think I just enjoyed being able to understand the language. You also get good chat at

The pub – London pubs are so great. They can be like a big loungeroom full of all your mates. Because everyone has small houses or flats, these are the meeting spots, the melting pots. There’s nothing quite like it in Zurich. Or Sydney for that matter.

Uber wow – what a revelation. Cheap(ish) cab rides got even cheaper and easier. Can I miss something that didn’t exist when I lived there? Also falls into the category of

Cheap shit – London is cheap compared to Zurich. Believe it. Food, toiletries, taxis (see above), clothes, the list goes on.

North London – in all its ridiculous so-crappy-but-everyone-thinks-it’s-great glory. Some bits are lovely, some bits are astoundingly nasty. But… kid-friendly shops, cute cafes, pubs, restaurants, parks and streets full of families and Hot Young Things and gangstas and dogs and bikes all just muddling along with such diversity but somehow a cohesive community and it works. Or doesn’t. I don’t really know how to explain it.

Anything, Anywhere, Anytime – The Goodies‘ motto works well for London. Once Himself said he liked Joaquin Phoenix because he “looks like you could take him to bed and he’d do whatever you wanted”. London is the Joquin Phoenix of cities: ugly-beautiful and up for it. Which brings me nicely to my final point 😉

My friends – nuff said.

 

PS: Just realised I also wrote a preemptive post about What I’ll Miss as one of my earliest entries! I see Cheap Stuff and My Friends make both lists, ha ha.

 

 

 

 

 

Räbeliechti

image

Yesterday was our first participation in Räbeliechti. This Swiss Halloween-ish tradition involving turnips (Räben) seems kind of like what *Halloween should be, or maybe was back in the good old days before crazy over-Americanisation and ridiculous amounts of sweets and horror-masks and people dressing as the victims or perps of gruesome crimes because that’s so funny! (Er, OK so I have a bit of a problem with some of this stuff – but I guess that’s a blog post for another time).

But I digress – Räbeliechti- involves children carving turnip lanterns and then going on a procession with them through the streets in the Räbeliechtiumzug, while singing songs. It’s mostly for kids but of course the adults troop along too and belt out the choons (assuming they know the words!) The biggest Räbeliechtiumzug in Switzerland happens in the town of Richterswil about halfway down Lake Zurich at Richterswil Raben Chibli with up to 20,000 visitors attending and 30,000kg turnips used! We had our local version last night.

It started with the Räben schnitzen (turnip carving) at my son’s Kindergarten. Parents, grandparents or a family friend were invited to come along for an hour in the morning and given instructions on how to do it. We were told to BYO spitziges Messer (sharp knife), Ausstechförmli (cookie cutter shapes) and Aushöler (melon baller to scoop out the turnip flesh).

Turnips for carving at the Kindergarten

I went along and slightly messed up the carving due to realising too late that you’re not meant to carve all the way through the turnip, like with a jack-o-lantern, but rather carve the shapes and leave a thin film of turnip flesh on those sections so the light shines through prettily but is protected from wind etc. Oh well – I paid close attention to the Schweizer Grossvater (Swiss grandad) at our table doing a very profesh job and will nail it next year! Anyway, our Räbe didn’t look half bad, if I do say so myself.

Our carved turnip

Our carved turnip

Now, for the Räbeliechtiumzug – the parade. This was really sweet. The kids (and parents) met at the Kindergarten at 6.15pm to light the candles in their turnips. Then the Kindergarten teacher led the procession (kids in pairs, holding their Räbeliechti) to the local school ground where we met up with about a dozen other groups of kids from all the Kindergartens nearby.

Räbeliechtiumzug

Räbeliechtiumzug

Once the groups had gathered, we all paraded en masse to the area’s forest park, singing the Räbeliechti songs all the way. I have literally never seen our local streets so packed with people! It was so lovely to see all the differently carved Räbeli lighting up the darkness with the kids so serious about holding them and singing away. Once we got to the park, there was a huge bonfire (they love making fires outdoors in Switzerland, big time). Everybody gathered around and sang the songs again (there were 3 or 4 official ones).

The bonfire in the woods

The bonfire in the woods

Finally, Kürbissuppe (pumpkin soup) was served (BYO mug) and everyone stood around chatting and/or playing in the heaps of autumn leaves on the ground, then we headed for home (around 8pm). Not sure why it was pumpkin soup rather than turnip – although I guess turnip soup is pretty gak.  So there you have it: sweet songs**, community spirit, home-made turnip candle holders with pretty, flickering lights, and not a scary mask in sight. I love this Swiss tradition!

Love Räbeliechti!

Love Räbeliechti!

 

*In fact, we also enjoyed Halloween last week because, as a sad old goth, I love making costumes and dressing up (and probably should enjoy the dark stuff a bit more and yet, and yet… it’s often done in such a non-thinking way… anyway, leave it).

**I should also add that I get that Halloween / Samhain (and probably Räbeliechti) is not really meant to be sweet. As a celebration embracing (or warding off) the impending winter and the time of year when the gap between the world of the living and that of the dead is narrowest, this occasion reminds us of our mere mortality and is about bringing our feeble human light to the darkness and feasting against the cold and hunger that possibly lies ahead.  But also: abundant food, heaters and penicillin Mofos so… yeah enough with the lollies already!

Bern

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I took a turn

to Bern

The bears

weren’t there

Oh durn

 

I met a friend

I’d only penned

previously

it was she

who works with me

 

Walked by the Aare

It wasn’t far

from town

But steeply down

Lucky there’s a cable car…

 

It was broke!

So we walked and spoke

Talked shop

(tho sometimes stopped

to make a joke)

 

Saw the Zytglogge

What a clock

The Bundeshaus

And had the nous

To know when to stop (for coffee)

 

A lovely day

To get away

From home

And roam

With baby too – hooray!