Bletchley Park, August 2017

Jan and I recently watched The Imitation Game, which has inspired me to finally write about the day we spent at Bletchley Park last year! As I’m sure you know, Bletchley Park was the home of the WWII code-breakers. Really, I only had the vaguest idea of what went on there – something to do with decoding the German military’s secret messages? Likewise, although I had heard of Alan Turing, I had no idea who he actually was. Yes, clearly I was very ignorant.

Bletchley Park1

Located in a the grounds of a mansion in Bletchley, a small town that’s part of Milton Keynes, Bletchley Park was the home of home of the Government Code & Cypher School – now known as the Government Communications Headquarters – during the Second World War. Nobody actually knew that at the time though – the work being done at Bletchley Park was highly secret and only started to be discussed publicly in 1974. The site has been a museum since the 90’s and was restored to what it is now in 2014.

The exhibition starts in the welcome centre, where they have a short film and some information about the history of Bletchley Park. Once outside, you can enter some of the restored huts, which have partly been set up as they would have been originally and partly contain some interactive exhibits. Then the main exhibition is in Block B. There, you can read about the history of the Enigma – the machine the Germans used to write their code. Early models had been used commercially, so everybody knew they existed, but of course the military version was more complex. Block B also has an exhibition about Alan Turing, which is where I learned all about him and his sad fate for the first time. He was, of course, part of Hut 8 at Bletchley Park and instrumental in the invention of the machines that were used to crack the Enigma’s codes (although not quite to the extent depicted in the film!), but to computer scientists he is mostly known as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.

In a way, the exhibition at Bletchley Park was the perfect combination and Jan’s and my interests – the codebreaking, Colossus machine used for breaking ciphers (considered to be an early computer), and Alan Turin stuff for computer scientist Jan, and the linguistic component for me: obviously it wasn’t enough to just decrypt the messages… somebody had to translate the German (and later Japanese) text into English as well!

The exhibition was really interesting – it’s fascinating to think of all that happening not even that long ago, certainly within our grandparents’ lifetimes. But there was so much information. We were there for about 5 hours and didn’t even manage to see everything properly. We left right before closing time and I was actually pleased they weren’t open any longer since, by then, I was all museumed out. It was definitely a good start to our holiday though and I can highly recommend it to anyone who is at all interested in history, cryptography, computer science or languages. Tickets are valid for a year, so those who live closer can go back time and again. I feel like smaller doses will make it easier to take everything in 😉

Advertisements

Recent doings #26

Wow… can you believe it’s the first Thursday of another month already? Once again, the year seems to be flying by. Today is actually Jan’s birthday, but he’s a weirdo who never wants to celebrate so I’ve got him some gifts and I’ll cook a slightly nicer meal than usual later. For now, though, I’m linking up with Kristen and Gretch to tell you what I got up to in February.

8fdf5-whats2bnew2bwith2byou

Eating. Porridge – sort of. I don’t have time in the morning to make proper porridge, so I defrost frozen berries by poring boiling water over them then mix them in a bowl with maple syrup, oats and boiling water. It would be nicer with milk, but since we don’t have a microwave boiling the kettle is the best I can do. Apart from that, I’ve been making broth a lot. Warm, comforting food for the cold weather we’ve been having – it was -7°C here on Monday!

Drinking. Matcha latte. It comes in a packet and you just add boiling water. Probably not very healthy but I like it!

Reading. I completed 16 books in February, which I will tell you about soon. Apart from that I’ve been plodding my way through Anna Karenina. It’s taking foreverrrr.

Watching. Pointless and Eggheads. We also watched the first episode of Young Sheldon. It’s cute.

Celebrating. Our anniversary (of getting together – clearly we’re not married). Sort of. Jan had choir practice on the actual day so I cooked a slightly nicer meal the next evening and we actually ate at the table for once. Then on the Saturday after we went to Aarau, walked around the town a bit and had lunch. I gave him a card, he gave me nothing. And that was the extent of our celebration.

Aarau

Travelling. To Dijon, for a day and a half. Turns out it’s really close to us. You can see part of our day in Dijon in my February photo an hour post.

Making. Birthday cards for Post Pals children. Like every month. I feel like this category is getting boring?

Cross stitching. Birthday cards for the sons of two friends. One had a birthday in February, the other’s is next week.

Attending. The fire parade in Liestal (see last year’s post for explanation) and the Morgestraich part of Fasnacht (Basel’s carnival – the link is to 2016’s).

Playing. I bought Jan a Discworld board game called The Witches for Christmas. We played it once in February and I actually won! (When he first got it we played several times and he won all but one of those times).

Buying. Books, obviously. Jan’s birthday presents. I can’t think of anything else.

That’s all for today. How was your February?

A Photo an Hour: 17 February 2018

Saturday was February’s photo an hour date. I didn’t take part on Twitter because I was in France for most of the day and didn’t want to buy a data package, but I did take photos ready for uploading to a blog post. I had actually forgotten about it until Jan said “don’t forget to take a photo every hour”… at 20 past 11! By then I had missed just over two hours worth of photos! So I decided to wait 10 minutes and make it a photos at half past day, rather than on the hour. As a result, getting up and breakfast are missing and my “day” starts shortly after checking out of the hotel.

11:30 a.m. Just left our hotel in Dijon. The red phonebox (with no phone in it) is a meeting point for tour buses.

12:30 p.m. Rainy Dijon. We had just bought tickets from the Tourist Information office to climb the tower you see in this photo.

1:30 p.m. After a tea/coffee break, we’re back out walking in the rain.

2:30 p.m. Our tower tickets were for 2 p.m. At this stage we were at the bottom of the tower waiting for the guide to open the door and let us out.

3:30 p.m. At the museum of Fine Arts, formerly the Ducal Palace.

4:30 p.m. Another museum! This time The Museum of Burgundian Life.

5:30 p.m. All museumed out, we headed to a nearby bar.

6:30 p.m. Still at the bar. There were lots of these drawings on the wall.

7:30 p.m. After collecting the suitcase from the hotel, we picked up some food for the train journey home.

8:30 p.m. On the train reading Anna Karenina.

9:30 p.m. Back in Basel and on the train home – Dijon is only just under 1.5 hours away!

10:30 p.m. So happy to be all snuggly in my PJs!

That was the last photo I took – I did read for a little afterwards, but I was snuggled up with the lights out long before it would have been time to take the next photo.

As always, Photo an Hour was hosted by Louisa and Jane.
What did you get up to on Saturday?

35 before 35: Progress report #8

I would have liked to do this yesterday, when it was exactly 6 months until my birthday and thus the end of the challenge. But I was in the office yesterday so by the time I was back in Switzerland and had eaten there was no way I was switching the computer back on! So today it is. My last progress report was seven months ago. Let’s see what I’ve achieved since then…

Number 6: Travel round Britain again

Technically we only spent time in England and Scotland and it wasn’t a round trip (we flew into Gatwick and left from Edinburgh), but we spent two weeks travelling within Great Britain so I’m counting it as completed in August 2017.

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

Last time I was up to 19… now I am on 20 (and the time before it was 18). This does not bode well! I read The Naming of the Shrew by John Wright. There’s a short review here.

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I was up to 24, now I’m on 27. So three read. The three were Toten Stille by Daniela Arnold (fairly meh), Mein Leben, mal eben by Nikola Huppertz (really enjoyed it), and Das Mohnblütenjahr by Corina Bomann (good, but not as good as the other book I’ve read by her). And now I have another three to go – should be doable.

Number 18: Bake ten different kinds of biscuits

It’s been a while since I’ve baked biscuits. Last time I didn’t even mention this category! The time before I had been on 7, and now it’s 8. I recently baked coffee shortbread. (I actually baked chocolate brownie biscuits at Christmas, but I’ve done them before so they don’t count).

coffee shortbread2

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

Last time I was up to 56 and now I’ve made it to 63! That leaves another 69 to read in 6 months. Hmm. I’m not going to mention you all the ones I’ve read since last July in this post, but you can find the entire list here. I will say I read the last one, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, yesterday while waiting for my train home and it’s possibly the weirdest book I’ve ever read!

And that’s everything this time. Only one challenge actually completed, but a bit of progress made on some others.

19 items remain incomplete. Some I can finish fairly easily, others will not be happening. I may try to check in one more time before August, but I’m not promising anything. This may well end up being my final progress report. And now to try and complete as many things as I can before August… Wish me luck!

Glasgow – New Year’s Day 2017

Hello everyone. I hope you’re all having a good week. And if not remember it’s now Wednesday, which means we’re already on the downhill slope towards the weekend. Woo! As for me, I can’t believe this is only my second week back at work after Christmas… it already feels like forever! Yesterday was my first day actually in the office this year and getting up for the train was torture. But anyway, I digress…

Remember that time I went to Glasgow for Hogmanay? No? I don’t blame you… it was over a year ago. So you’re probably asking yourself why I’m even bothering to write a post about it. The truth is I can’t currently upload my photos from Geneva (new memory card with more storage, card reader can’t read it). So Glasgow it is…

Glasgow2

I’ve already posted about our first day in Glasgow, and how we saw in the New Year, so today I will be talking about New Year’s day.

We slept late, because that’s what you do on New Year’s day when you don’t have to be up for breakfast in a hotel, so by the time we had brunched and got ready the afternoon was getting on a bit. We wanted to make the most of the gorgeous weather (the total opposite to the previous day), so decided to walk through the city.

Just look at how blue the sky was!

Finally, we reached our destination: The Necropolis. I’m sure those who have been to Glasgow know it. For the rest of you, it’s a Victorian cemetery. This may sound morbid, but I enjoy walking through old cemeteries… and the older ones especially a more like parks anyway. But enough of my rambling… have some photos.

Having arrived at the bottom of the hill again, we started our walk back into town. Here’s a photo that shows just how much rain had fallen the previous day:

Glasgow17
Not a river…

The sun was starting to set as we walked back through town, and I managed to capture glowing buildings on a few of my photos.

Obviously we couldn’t go to Glasgow and not visit this guy:

It’s the Duke of Wellington, in case you care, but more importantly it always has a cone on its head!

We continued our stroll until we got down to the river (the Clyde). By this time it was starting to get dark, which made photography difficult, but I tried my best.

From there, we headed back to the apartment more than ready for a sit down, a cup of tea and some dinner! And that was the end of our time in Glasgow… or mine and Jan’s anyway – K stayed on for another few days seeing her family, but our flight back was on the 2nd, ready to start work again on the 3rd.

So there you have it. The conclusion of our trip to Glasgow… only a little over a year late!

Fenwick’s Christmas Window 2017 – Paddington Bear

While we were over in England for my sister’s wedding, my dad wanted to take us shopping in Newcastle for Christmas presents. Having missed out on Fenwick’s window in 2016 (to my eternal sorrow – it was Peter Rabbit. I love Peter Rabbit/Beatrix Potter, to the extent that I had the bedding when I was little), I was determined to get a look at last year’s effort… Paddington. My favourite bear (sorry Winnie-the-Pooh – you’re a close second if it’s any consolation). It was Thursday afternoon and the schools hadn’t broken up for Christmas yet so we were able to get right up to the window for a proper look. Here are my photos… with apologies for all the reflections of passers-by and the buildings opposite. Pretty difficult to avoid!

I presume Paddington was chosen as the theme because of the second film coming out, but to me it seemed like a fitting tribute to Michael Bond, the author of the original books, who passed away in June 2017. Although I personally prefer the books, it’s nice that the films are ensuring the story of the little bear from Darkest Peru is continuing for a new generation of children.

My 2017

Aah, 2017. This year has gone so fast that I don’t feel prepared at all, but honestly I’ll be glad to see the back of it. Between things going on at Jan’s company (which I can’t blog about), quite a bit of stress/overtime for me at work (which I occasionally allude to but won’t blog about in more detail because it’s never a good idea to say too much about work, even if what I have to say wouldn’t be in any way critical!), and some personal things (which I may one day blog about), this has been far from my favourite year. But enough about that, let me get on with my annual recap.

Usually I provide links to the posts about the events/travels in each month, but that won’t be happening so much this year… I’ve barely managed to post about any of them since about February. Bad blogger. Bad, bad blogger! Oh well, at least that will hopefully mean some of them will be new to my readers and this recap will be less repetitive than previous ones 😉

January

We went to Glasgow for Hogmanay, together with our friend K, and saw in 2017 at the Ashton Lane Street Party. It had rained most of the day on the 31st but actually stopped in time for us to go out in the evening so we didn’t get soaked watching the fireworks. Yay!

Glasgow fireworks

The next day K showed us around Glasgow and we had a walk around the cemetery. (And there’s the first thing I failed to actually post about!)

Apart from that, we went back to Karlsruhe for a birthday party and I attempted to bake Bourbon Creams. They did not work particularly well. It also snowed in January. And on the 21st we went to see Dara Ó Briain perform – coincidentally almost exactly a year after we had seen Dylan Moran. That’s all I remember. It was a fairly quiet month.

February

An even quieter month. I am honestly having to wrack my brains to figure out whether we did anything! Jan and I got together in February, and in 2017 we celebrated our 13 year anniversary so there’s that. Our anniversary was on a Sunday so we couldn’t do much, but the day before we took a trip to Winterthur, near Zurich (another trip I have yet to post about…).

Winterthur Stadthaus

My work had an event for freelancers so I had to go into the office in Germany… on a Saturday, no less. I took the last week of the month off and had great intentions of cleaning and visiting nearby places, but I ended up doing nothing much. I did walk along the Rhine almost all the way to Germany on one of the days though. It was 22°C that day… in February! Crazy!

birsfelden-power-plant

We also ordered a chest of drawers and a Billy bookcase from IKEA. I bet you can barely contain your excitement now!

March

Jan’s birthday is in March but he’s boring and never wants to celebrate so we didn’t do anything. I cooked a slightly nicer than usual meal for him coming home from work and baked cupcakes.

Fasnacht was in March this year (it’s always in either February or March – the week after everyone else celebrates Carnival/Fasching/Pancake Day). This year we went to the fire parade in Liestal the night before the main celebrations started. It was awesome! If you ever find yourself in Basel at the right time, get ye there!

Chienbäse8

I had taken all three days of Fasnacht off, but it rained so much that I only actually went on the Tuesday!

We went to see the King’s Singers in March – the tickets were Jan’s Christmas gift – and also hosted visitors who came to see Jan perform with one of his choirs. Another friend also came to visit for no reason other than to see us. It was a pretty grey and cold day, but we went to a local animal park anyway.

fox

And that’s all I can think of for March, so on to the next month…

April

At the beginning of the month Jan was singing in Chur (the same concert I had already seen in March) and his hosts invited me down for the night, so we spent an afternoon exploring the town before taking a train back. Briefest trip ever!

Easter was in April this year, and we spent it in Berlin, visiting our friend K (the same one from New Year). Another trip I haven’t posted about. *Sigh*. It was very cold and essentially we spent time catching up and ate a lot. Two days summarised very briefly!

Brandenburg Gate

At the end of the month we had another visitor, because we had offered him a trip to a local art gallery as his birthday present. We did the gallery on the Sunday and went to Bern and Fribourg on the Saturday (luckily it was a photo an hour day so I actually have a post to link to!).

On the 26th, I had been living in Switzerland for precisely two years! Woo.

May

This month saw us take another trip to IKEA (we bought something for dirty laundry and a table that’s really a bench for our plants) and attended a concert that a doctor Jan once saw about some throat issues was performing in. Random! We also went to an exhibition about robots at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein (Germany). And on one of the many public holidays in May we went to Reinach where there is a fairytale sculpture path that I’ve failed to write about along with everything else I did this year!

Red Riding Hood

We went to see Ross Noble at the very end of May. He was funny, but far from the best comedian I’ve seen live. Sorry Ross, but my Northern patriotism doesn’t go that far…

Oh, apparently we went to Belfort (France) at the beginning of May. Yet another trip I haven’t posted about…

June

The first weekend in June was a long weekend (thank you Whit Monday!), so we decided to take advantage and go away somewhere. That somewhere ended up being the Champagne region in France so I could cross something off my 35 before 35 list (which I will definitely not be completing before my next birthday, but oh well!).

Moet-Chandon

In the middle of the month one of Jan’s choirs had a CD release party so I went along to that. It also happened to be Photo an Hour day, so at least I wasn’t just sitting around at home for once! We also saw the Swiss Youth Choir perform in June (Jan is in a choir with some of its members so he wanted to go along). What else? This post tells me the only time I swam in the Rhine this year was in June. After that it was either raining or we weren’t around.

July

Jan performed with the Basel Tattoo Choir in July so he was busy with that for pretty much the entire month. I went to a performance… on the one day of the whole week that it properly chucked it down, thunder and lightning and everything! It was still cool though.

And that is literally the only thing I can remember doing in July (other than reading and cross stitching, which don’t count for this recap). I seem to recall it being a busy month at work?

August

My birthday month! We celebrated by going to Solothurn then attempting to watch shooting stars in Spiez the day before and then going up Rigi on my actual birthday.

Jan’s mum and her partner were staying on Lake Constance during August, so we met up with them on one weekend, first we had a reunion with some family members and then drove down to Überlingen with them for a night.

Then, at the end of August, it was finally time for our summer holiday! We spent most of the time in Cornwall and the Lake District, with the bank holiday weekend at “home” in Northumberland where we attended a friend’s 30th birthday party. We also met up with the lovely Kezzie, which was fab!

Lands End

September

We started September still in the UK, driving from the Lake District to Falkirk on the 2nd, where we saw the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies and spent one night in an apartment before flying home from Edinburgh the next day.

Kelpies

Jan’s former choir had a performance in September, and as the trains were not going at that time we had to hire a car… so we decided to get it for the whole weekend. We went to IKEA (another bookcase, hoorah!), Castle Chillon on Lake Geneva and then, on the Sunday, Karlsruhe for the choir’s performance.

Chillon

Apart from that September was another busy month at work so I spent most of my free time cross stitching and attempting to catch up on sleep!

October

We’re getting close to the end now!

October and March are the months that Jan’s choirs have their performances, and this year was no exception. Once again I attended two performances (one of which fell on a Photo an Hour day), and we had visitors come to watch the one by the better choir.

As always, the pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg was on from September to the first week of November, and in October we managed to make it there! (Another post I’ve been meaning to write…) This year’s theme was Romans. I found the sculptures better than last year but 2015’s “Flight” topic is still the best I’ve seen. (Post here for those that missed it back then)

Pumpkins2

Basel’s autumn fair happened in October and we very bravely tried eating insects!

November

I think I spent most of November making Christmas cards and buying gifts for my family (I had to have them all sorted by the beginning of December this year…). We certainly didn’t travel anywhere… and on one weekend I even agreed to work! We did have a trip to the theatre though, so that’s something.

December

A friend from uni came to visit for the first week in December and we took a trip to the Christmas markets in Freiburg, via a small village called Bad Bellingen, then went to see the Basel markets the next day. It was a lovely weekend filled with lots of Glühwein.

Freiburg Wihnachtsmarkt

The following weekend we were in England where I was a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding. The day went amazingly, my sister looked gorgeous, my cousin did a fantastic job with my hair (plus the other bridesmaids’ and my mam’s) and a good time was had by all. I really enjoyed catching up with family. However, the 24 hours it took to get home after our first flight was delayed – causing us to miss our connection – I did not enjoy!

bride balloons

And that brings us pretty much to the present. Last weekend the shops were open on Sunday (a thing that is only allowed to happen a limited number of times per year) so Jan and I went to a shopping centre and did some last-minute gift buying.  On Tuesday we met up with friends here for pre-Christmas drinks (on a side note, at which point to you get to claim people are your “friends” rather than just people you hang out with sometimes?), and today is my final day at work for the year. As for the rest of December… we’re spending Christmas at home, just the two of us. On Boxing Day we will be visiting a cousin of my dad’s who lives not far from us (but in Germany having recently left Switzerland), Jan has to work on a few of the days between Christmas and New Year, and then we will be seeing out 2017 in Geneva.

And that was my year… from Glasgow to Geneva with a few stops in between. I didn’t think we had done much this year, but writing this post has reminded me of a few days out that I had entirely forgotten (Belfort was this year? Wow!). There were a few quieter months, but overall I can’t really complain that it was a boring year. For 2018 I am hoping for good news for Jan on the work front (above all that we get to actually stay where we are!) and generally a more settled year in that regard, with slightly less overtime for me, and hopefully also some answers on to other things as well. Bring it on 2018. I’m ready!