40 before 40: progress report 2

In exactly two months it’s my birthday. I will be 36. Closer to 40 than 30. (And still childless, but that’s not a post for today.) It seemed like as good an occasion as any for another progress report on my 40 before 40 challenge. Not that I’ve achieved a great deal since March, but whatever. We’re doing this anyway.

Number 5: Read the rest of the books from the BBC Big Read that I didn’t manage before turning 35

That’s a total of 63 books, and last time I had read 5 of those. Since then I’ve read two more – Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy and The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – to give me a total of seven. Only 56 left to go then.

Number 14: Read 25 non-fiction books

I have read precisely one – Mr Briggs’ Hat: The True Story of a Victorian Railway Murder by Kate Colquhoun. Yeah, I’m not great at reading non-fiction.

Number 14: Read a book published in each year of my life ( =one book each from 1983 until 2023)

Last time, I had read books from 20 years. Now I’m up to 23. You’d think this one would be easy but I keep either reading relatively recent books with publication dates between 2016 and 2019 – years I’ve already completed – or it turns out the books were published in 1978 or something, which is too early. You can see all the ones I’ve read here.

Number 16: Try 10 foods or dishes that I haven’t had before

I managed to eat two new-to-me foods in Spain! In Ronda we went for tapas and I tried oxtails. I’ve had oxtail soup before but this was my first time trying them not all blended into liquid. And in Cádiz Jan and I both tried a cold garlic soup, which is an Andalusian speciality. Both were delicious. With the one I had eaten last time around that leaves me with seven more new foods to try.

Oxtails
Oxtails and chips

And that’s all I’ve got for you today. I’m hoping to have crossed off a big chunk of the books for each year of my life by my next check in. Wish me luck!

 

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May 2019 recap

Hello my lovelies. Today I’m here to talk about May. Not Theresa May – I have no desire to discuss her or any of the mess that is currently politics in Britain. No, I mean the month of May… and specifically what I got up to in it.

Of course I am linking up with the lovely Kristen for What’s New With You.

whats new with you

In a way, it was a month of two halves. For the first two weeks, we were living on an actual building site while our bathrooms and kitchen were being replaced. That meant our flat had no shower, no toilets and nowhere to cook. We were provided with a portable toilet and a small electric hob, and there was a temporary shower set up downstairs in the drying room. For those who missed it, a couple of photos of what the place looked like, including one of the sink that was installed in the stairwell so we could at least attempt to wash dishes:

During the week, I rented a desk in a co-working space and at night we ate out. Spending as little time as possible at home made things bearable, but it was still a relief when the time came for us to go on holiday! Since we were flying from Zurich airport relatively early in the morning, we decided to go to Zurich the night before (well, Jan just stayed there since it’s where he worked) and sleep in a hotel. I am so glad we did! It meant a night in a dust-free room, a proper shower and a slightly later/less stressful start – we would have had to take a train from Basel at around 6 a.m.!

And then it was off to Ronda, Spain to meet family and friends. We had two full days and an afternoon there with my sister and brother-in-law, sister’s best friend and her boyfriend, my brother, my mum and my mum’s friend. My mum, her friend, Jan, my brother and I all stayed in a lovely apartment while the others were just down the road.

Everyone else left early on the Tuesday morning, but we had decided we wanted to have more than an extended weekend away, so we had booked an apartment in Cádiz for the next two nights. On the way there, we stopped off for a day on Gibraltar. The town is so bizarre – looking at it, you could be on any high street in the UK – there’s Debenhams, Next, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, multiple fish and chip shops. I even spied my bank (Natwest). The post boxes and phone booths are red and even the bins resembled those I know from Newcastle. But the buildings and trees are all wrong – I’ve never seen purple blossoms in the middle of a British town!

After wandering through the town, we of course took the cable car up the mountain, because what else do you do on Gibraltar? It was amazing being right up close to the monkeys – but also kind of terrifying. Especially when two of them started shouting at each other and it seemed like a fight was about to happen. We were already heading back to the cable car at that point and needless to say we didn’t hang around near those particular apes for long!

We then drove on to Cádiz, arriving around 6 o’clock in the evening, spent the next day there and finally headed to Lisbon via Evora. After two days in Lisbon and a very brief stop in Sintra on our final morning, it was time to fly home. Back in Basel, we stopped for dinner before doing anything else since we had no idea what the state of our flat was going to be…

As it turns out, it was almost finished. We had toilets that actually flushed and a working kitchen (although we waited until after the final inspection to actually use it). I still had another week off work so on the Monday I walked into town very early in the morning so the flat would be free for them to get on with whatever last minute things needed doing. I bought breakfast, which I ate in the park, then went to a café called Unternehmen Mitte where they let you just sit without having to purchase anything. There, I finished the book I had started reading on the flight home. So that killed about 2 hours. I had a wander round town, bought and ate some lunch, then ended up in a bookshop where I was very naughty and bought two books. I then read one of those books sitting at the train station – the only other place I could think of where you can sit for ages without being moved on! My initial idea had been to go back to the park where I had breakfast, but every seat was taken by people on their lunch breaks. Book finished, I went and treated myself to coffee and cake in the restaurant of a department store. Finally, at 4 p.m. I started walking home, arriving to find that the builders had already left. Tuesday was inspection day, so I trailed the construction manager and his assistant as they made a list of all the small things that still needed to be done – cracks to paint over, holes to be filled. I also got official permission to fill the fridge and start putting things back in the kitchen, so that’s what I spent the rest of the week doing. Plus cleaning every single thing. Construction dust gets everywhere! I’ve never hoovered so much in my life Thursday was a public holiday, so on that day I actually had Jan to help. And the new washing machine (in our actual flat!) got used a lot. As did the tumbler dryer, which I am aware is incredibly bad for the environment but with the drying room still out of commission (that’s where the temporary shower resides) and a friend staying over on Saturday, which meant the spare room bedding needed to be freed from dust, we didn’t have much of a choice. You can’t dry sheets and quilt covers on a clothes horse!

Okay, this is already long so just quickly. During those first two weeks when everything was going on, we obviously didn’t want to spend too much time in our dusty, dusty flat, so on 1st May – a public holiday – we went to Porrentruy, which is cute but not that exciting. Then on the 4th the builders needed access on a Saturday (at 8 a.m. – no lie in for us!) so we headed to Lenzburg because it was raining and there was a castle that would allow us to be inside. The following Saturday, Jan had a concert in the evening so we ate lunch in town and did some shopping before he had to leave (and I then followed an hour later to attend said concert).

Lenzburg
Lenzburg Castle

As for yearly goals… I didn’t really keep track of my vegetable intake, but we ate at Markthalle and vegetarian restaurant a lot so I think I got my five portions most days… at least until we went on holiday. Lots of cheese and meat boards were consumed there. I definitely managed to drink enough water for the entire month, which I’m proud of. And I finally actually finished a non-fiction book. I mean, I only want to read ten this year and we’re already nearly halfway through. No big deal…

I think that just about sums up my May. The rest of the time I worked (from a co-working space) and attempted to keep the living room and bedroom free from the worst of the dust – a Sisyphean task if there ever was one! My next post will be my choices for round 11 of Erin’s book challenge, which starts on 1st July. May wasn’t my best reading month (although I managed 9 books, so also not my worst ever) so I am hoping to get lots of reading done over the summer months.

Okay, enough. I seem to have gone back to that old rambling format that I was trying to get away from and I’m sure you’re bored of me by now. Go check out the link up because Kristen is awesome and should be shown all the love. And tell me in the comments what you’ve been up to lately.

Photo an hour in Ronda (19 May 2019)

¡Hola, mis amigos! Last Sunday was photo an hour day, and it just happened to fall on the first full day of my holiday. We were in Ronda, Spain, where we met up with my sister and brother-in-law, my sister’s best friend and her boyfriend, my brother, my mum and a friend of my mum’s. Let’s see what I got up to that day, shall we?

8:30 a.m. Awake but not getting up yet, so here’s the view from my bed.

9:30 a.m. Now out of bed and having a cuppa.

10:30 a.m. Dressed and waiting for the others to be ready to leave.

11:30 a.m. Admiring the view… the day’s plan being to walk down into the gorge.

12:30 p.m. The start of the journey down.

1:30 p.m. We found water! Hurrah.

2:30 p.m. Back at the top and hitting a bar for some much needed refreshments.

3:30 p.m. Crossing the bridge, and looking down into the gorge.

4:30 p.m. We stopped for lunch… and I also had a beer.

5:30 p.m. Wandering through a rose garden.

6:30 p.m. Back at the apartment to chill for a while… how beautiful is that ceiling?

7:30 p.m. A glass of vino before heading back out.

We went out for dinner after that and I completely forgot to take any more photos, so that’s your lot. Maybe I will remember to post more photos of Ronda at some point, but I wouldn’t hold your breath considering I still haven’t posted must of the ones from our trip around Britain two years ago…

As always, Photo an Hour was hosted by Jane and Louisa. The next one will be on Saturday, 15 June. Make a note of it now if you want to join in!

“I don’t think that’s where the bath tub belongs”…

… and other tales from the building site.

Not much to tell you today, but I thought I’d update anyway. These photos were actually taken at the weekend and I didn’t get round to posting them, but there’s no visible difference today anyway so it’s fine.

Last week they put fire protection walls over the pipes in the bathrooms. I know they’re fire protection walls because they were standing outside our flat door the day before and that’s what the label on them said 😉 Then a few days later a shower tray (I assume) and bath tub appeared. The bath isn’t quite where it belongs yet though…

 

(I guess you can’t really tell from the photo, but the bath is literally in front of the door.)
Those black pipes that are just standing around in the picture on the left have gone now, although I’m not sure where…

The kitchen looks the same, so no photo. Although today they’ve removed some of the drawers and the cupboard thing (with bins attached) from under the sink, so it seems like today they’ve been doing things with the wiring, which is less dramatic/visible that other things but also important. Other than that a whole bunch of stuff has appeared in the corridor again… wall panels like the ones that went over the pipes in the kitchen and something that may be for the kitchen floor? I’m not sure. Hopefully that will all be getting installed somewhere tomorrow. We’ll see.

Also, we had a (literal) shit show with the temporary shower/toilet facilities at the weekend. I went down there on Saturday morning to find what I thought was water on the floor. Then I looked down the side of the container and… it was not just water. Jan called the construction manager who first claimed we weren’t supposed to be using the toilet since we have chemical ones (nope, not what we were told!) then blamed the residents for throwing things down there they shouldn’t have. Which makes no sense because it wasn’t blocked but clearly leaking/not attached properly. He then told us there was still one bathroom in the next door building that could be used… the water there was being switched off on Monday (as in today) but it could be used over the weekend. And he would send somebody to clean up the mess. So I got to shower in a real bathroom again over the weekend and this morning. I’ll be back using the temporary shower tomorrow though (at 5 a.m. since I also have to go into the office tomorrow. Ugh.). Five more sleeps until holiday…

A gathering of thoughts (and stuff)

Hello my lovelies. It’s time for another one of my “thoughts” posts, i.e. a list of random things that I want to say but that don’t necessarily merit a whole blog post of their own. The tag line of my blog is “just a place for me to gather my thoughts” so the occasional post like this seems fitting. Anyway…

  • The other day I bought myself a take-away hot drink in my lunch break. I felt bad about it but I was freezing and needed something warm (there is a coffee machine at the co-working space but 1) it’s a Nespresso machine and honestly those capsules are no better from the environment than disposal cups and 2) I wasn’t buying coffee). I was relieved/pleased when my drink duly arrived in a cup that claimed to be compostable. Yay! A couple of days later I went by the same place and saw a sign I’d missed the first time saying due to issues with littering they’re doing a test with compostable cups and customers can feel free to opt out and request an ordinary take-away cup. They seemed to have actually run out of the compostable ones that time so I didn’t buy anything. It’s good to know these things do exist though. Now if only all take-away places would start using them…
  • With all the construction going on, Jan and I have been eating out a lot. Two days ago we were walking home after dinner when we suddenly heard a miaowing in a place where no miaowing should be. At first we thought it was coming from a building that seems to be abandoned/under construction but then we realised it was actually below us and saw a kitty in a ventilation shaft/drain thing (not sure of its exact purpose) outside the building. Since it didn’t seem to want/be able to go back out the way it had come in, we called the fire brigade. Jan also took a photo in case it did manage to escape before the fire brigade got there.
    cat
    Kitty underground

    When the fire people pulled the gird up, it ran into another bit next to it then after they pulled that one up it went further down into the shaft. It ended up with two people from the fire brigade going down after it, following it all the way through a tunnel and ending up inside the building. They then looked all over the place but didn’t figure out where the cat had gone so they just made sure the doors leading to where the entrance to the shaft is were properly closed and left it. Apparently a large window was open round the back, which is probably where it got in. Oh well, at least we tried to help! The cat didn’t have a collar but seemed to be cared for/not a stray so as we were leaving I said to Jan “It will probably go home now and the owners will be really confused about how it got so dusty”.

  • On the subject of construction, I think the worst thing about this renovation thing is that I’ve only managed to read one book so far this month (hoping to finish a second one tonight though). I usually read in bed at night but having no electricity in the bedroom has been making that kind of difficult, plus with one thing and another we mostly haven’t been getting home until late so I’ve basically been going straight to bed. Jan has choir practice tonight though so I’m having a sandwich for tea (shop bought so no dishes) and attempting to finish my book while I eat.
  • Today I found out one of my colleagues is pregnant. I read it in the minutes of a team meeting and I have to admit I’m glad I wasn’t in the office for that particular meeting. Even just reading it was like a stab in the heart. This way I have time to process and will congratulate her tomorrow instead of having to stuff down my feelings and immediately congratulate her at the meeting. I hate that infertility and the loss of our boys has made me so incapable of just being happy for another human being who has got some good news.

Okay, that’s everything that’s on my mind today. I’m off to buy my sandwich, finish my book then hopefully get an early night. Have a wonderful evening (or day or weekend, depending on when you read this).

 

We (sort of) have a kitchen!

Hello friends! It’s time for another update on the building site that is our home. I was going to write one at the weekend but then we returned home on Friday to a note on the door requesting access at 8 the next morning. That’s 8 a.m. on a Saturday! So I decided to wait until that was done and then ended up not having time to post, so you get an extra two days of progress… and what progress it is. This is how our kitchen looks now:

Above the long drawers at the back there is a hob (for my American friends that would be hotplates), the doors to the right of the oven house a fridge and a freezer and the “cupboard” beside the sink is actually home to a dishwasher. Also, that squareish mark on the ceiling above the cupboards/shelf part? That’s actually where the fridge used to be, so from that you can see where the kitchen has been extended slightly into the dining area giving us a little more kitchen space.

The bathrooms, on the other hand, haven’t progressed a great deal. Here they are:

Without referring to last week’s post you probably won’t even be able to tell what’s been done. An additional frame has been added on top of the one that was previously fitted and there are a few more pipes/hoses back there. I’m interested to see what will be happening next…

Apart from that, work has now started in the next door part of the building, so there are no longer empty flats with bathrooms over there. Instead, a temporary shower/toilet/sink unit have been set up downstairs. Things actually worked pretty well with the bathroom next door – having to go over there was slightly annoying, but nothing I couldn’t deal with and it was always free when I needed it (there were two flats each with two bathrooms, which meant a total of four toilets and two showers available (plus two bathtubs)). Now there is one shower/toilet for everyone who is left in the building and today, on the very first day of having to use it, our upstairs neighbour went in there right as I was about to go downstairs. So tomorrow I’ll be getting up even earlier. (Jan, meanwhile, opted to get up a little earlier this morning and use the showers at his work.) Surprisingly though, the shower situation isn’t what annoys me most. The most annoying thing – apart from having to be up early on Saturday – is the dust. It’s everywhere! The dust sheets on the doors do a reasonable job of keeping most of it out, but they can’t stop it from being tracked in on our feet. And given that we have to walk through the dusty corridor no matter which room we want to enter the dust always follows. The second most annoying thing is that they’ve done something to the electricity so even though the trip switch is on there is no electricity in our bedroom. Getting ready for bed by the light of my phone torch is not my idea of fun…

Only this week and next week to get through and then we’re on holiday. We can do this! (She said, hopefully.)

April 2019

Well hello there! Can you believe we’re in May already? An entire third of the year is over! Once again, the year is speeding past and I feel like I haven’t really done anything. I should do something about that…

Today is the first Thursday of the month, which means I am linking up with Kristen for What’s New With You – although I’ve already told you about the main thing that’s new with me, namely that I’m currently living on a building site. In case you missed that, you can read all about it here and here. However, that doesn’t sum up my entire month so I shall attempt to tell you about the rest of it. This time in the form of bullet points. I’m still experimenting with how I want to do these posts.

whats new with you

  • We had a new colleague start at work, so we are now three German-English translators (my other colleague is part time though, so there are only two of us in the afternoons). He’s American, which is a novelty. Previously all our English translators have been from Britain. In fact, I think even all specifically from England. He just finished his Master’s in October so translating for actual customers is new to him, but so far he is getting on pretty well.
  • Speaking of work, after being ridiculously busy in January and February (and half of March), things died down a lot at the beginning of the month. While I don’t necessarily enjoy constant overtime having too little to do always makes me uneasy. However, last week I got a big job, which should keep me busy almost until I go on holiday in mid-May, so that’s nice.
  • Jan had choir performances on the first weekend of the month, first in Lucerne and then in Basel. Obviously I went to the Basel one, which meant I got to see the inside of another church. I’m tempted to start keeping a list! We also went to see a performance by a friend of Jan’s who sings in one of his choirs with him. It was… interesting to say the least 😉 This person tends to compose pieces that are very much experimental/unusual, but also cool.
  • We went to Zurich to see Eddie Izzard. It’s the second time I’ve seen him live and he did not disappoint. 10 out of 10, would see again.
  • We also went to the theatre this month… how very cultured! We saw Der Kaiser von Atlantis oder die Todes Verweigerung (The Emperor of Atlantis or The Disobedience of Death), a one-act opera by Viktor Ullmann and Peter Kien, who collaborated on the project while imprisoned in Theresienstadt. They both died in Auschwitz but luckily the manuscript survived.
  • With all that going on plus construction, I didn’t read as much as in previous months, but I did manage 13 books, which isn’t bad. I also have two others that I started in April but didn’t manage to finish. I put myself on a book buying ban for April, partly because of the whole IVF thing, which is expensive, but also in an attempt to actually read some of the many books that are already on my overflowing to-read shelves. Of course, that didn’t stop the books I had previously ordered from arriving and I also picked up a few books from free bookshelves so the situation hasn’t improved in the slightest. This is the current state of said shelves:
    unread books April2019You can just about spot “I’ll Give You the Sun” on the shelf below, which is technically also unread but doesn’t fit on the to-read shelves. I may have a slight problem. Ahem.
  • Easter also fell in April, as I’m sure you all know. We couldn’t go away for various reasons, one of them being that we had to remove everything from both bathrooms, the kitchen and the balcony ready for the renovation to begin on the Tuesday after Easter. However, we did take some time out from clearing and sorting for a trip to the zoo in Zurich on the Saturday and an afternoon in Schaffhausen on the Monday. Schaffhausen has the most amazing metal creatures on the end of their drain pipes… I’m not sure whether you would call them gargoyles as such? I don’t know… see for yourself:
     

     

    And that’s about it, or at least I can’t think of anything else. I obviously didn’t do a deep clean in April because it’s slightly pointless when the entire building is a giant pile of dust and there are no bathrooms or kitchens to clean anyway. I did a reasonable job of drinking water and managed to get my five a day some days, but honestly probably less than half. I think I managed at least three most days though.

    So, that was my April. What’s new with you? Hop on over the link up to find out what everyone else in blog land has been up to lately.