Off to a good start

Well now, hello blogland! My mind just boggled at the many events that have happened on  the 9th January over history https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_9 – really quite something. Not the most important, but Steve Jobs introduced the iphone 10 years ago today and that HAS had a direct impact on my life and my photography (I just uploaded all my most recent photographs and we’ve recently had varying degrees of struggle to set three different iphones up…). Anyway, this is the photo that inspired today’s post: img_1622This little pile has accumulated on my coffee table so as I can say something about each one, I thought I’d take advantage!

  1. The Idea of North by Peter Davidson – I haven’t delved into this one, yet, but was attracted by the title and the introduction blurb on the back. Among other things Nordic, from “hygge” to knitting patterns, I’ve recently read The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen (which I highly recommend, incidentally – a comparison between life in Finland/Scandinavia and the USA in so many areas including birth, education, health…) and have long had a hankering for Scandinavia/Northern Europe/the North generally; it seems like it’s going to be a good choice and promises “cultural history at its best”…
  2. Peacock & Vine by A.S. Byatt – This is a beautifully written essay comparing man-of-all-trades William Morris with the Spanish fashion designer Mariano Fortuny, who spent much of his life in Venice. Very much a “compare and contrast” work, A.S. Byatt explains where these two men had similar inspirations and in which respects they were very different. It’s a small book, a fascinating read and I read the original recommendation on Cornflower Books’ blog at http://www.cornflowerbooks.co.uk/2016/01/looking-forward-to-reading-.html.
  3. Mit Kindern durch das ganze Jahr by Peter Gogen – Apparently something of a classic children’s book in the 1970s, there are dozens of copies for sale second-hand (I probably picked it up at a Brockenhaus years ago) but I can’t find anything about the author. It’s one of those books with an activity for every day of the year, relatively few illustrations and where the tone expects that children between around 8-12 (my personal estimate) are independent and curious readers and are getting a thorough education – I’m afraid it is that which dates it most, as I imagine that age group these days has most often been dumbed down and is used to everything in digital multicolour comic style. Sad. I still think it has loads of interesting information and lots of ideas of things to do, make, experiment with and so on, and I like to look at it now and again. Occasionally I filter something from it to use with my grandchildren. I’ve always loved this kind of book myself, an only child who spent hours of the 1970s poring over something similar in English. I’m old-fashioned like that!
  4. SPQR by Mary Beard – Obviously, this is going to be about the Romans. Mary Beard is well known as a specialist in this field and I’ve enjoyed several TV series of her enthusiastic explanations of all things Roman. My mother and daughter have already got through this tome and now it’s my turn – I hear it’s very “engaging”! Quite apart from the subject matter, I sympathise with Mary Beard, who is criticised by the media for believing that appearances aren’t everything and lets her long grey hair blow around (as I do)!
  5. The Vikings by Jonathan Clements – Ah now, this one I have already listened to as an audiobook several times. Alone, with my daughter and son-in-law while they painted the house in Brittany, with my husband, daughter again, alone again – and again and again. There is so much in it and I can’t seem to remember it from one listen to the next so I got hold of a paper copy to give my daughter and now I get to borrow it and hope that reading a real book might make the stories sink in better (I have a very visual memory, especially for names – this is why I actually read The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan while I listen to it and knit, which freaks my husband out a bit but it’s the best way for me to retain even a fraction of the myriad stuff going on! If only the two texts were identical…). In my view, history books are enormous value for money! This one is well-written and entertaining and in the audiobook version, so well read you don’t doze off (my opinion of the reader of the Silk Roads is less charitable, since he doesn’t seem to recognise punctuation :o).

Well, that is 5 for January – let’s see how well I do with them this month, alongside everything else! We do still have snow (and more forecast!), the evenings are still dark, but some of the days have been stunning – I caught this behind the station just as the sun went down last Friday on my way home from an excellent exhibition in Zurich about the Japanese artist Ito Shinsui (http://www.rietberg.ch/itoshinsui_en and https://www.artelino.com/articles/ito_shinsui.asp): img_7574

 

 

A New Year

Our year was wrapped up en famille, which is always good – over several days and in several different combinations, as well as several different places, we got everyone together – img_8509 img_7418 img_7436 img_7485…and toasted the end of a difficult year, but one which does seem to have gone very fast! img_7489So here we are in 2017 – the tree has been taken down img_7568and we have snow! img_7513I love snow – as do the dog and my grandson, who came to stay – img_7547 img_7537 img_7534That was shortly before the snowball met its target – me 😮

Indoors, things were quieter img_7565 img_7570 img_7506 And all the while, the baby seems oblivious in a cloud of pink – aaaaah! img_7566Which rather sums up January, as this illustration from an old German activity book (1976…) shows! img_7502

Nearly there

Advent is almost a whole week longer this year, so ample time to check out the decorations around town – img_7345 img_7347 img_7350 img_7352I definitely like simple and pretty!

Reindeer live here – just behind this frosted tree (it’s not snow, just frozen fog up on the hill!), in a big stable very prettily hung with lights as you approach from below, and the restaurant across the road is about the wildest it gets around here in the way of deco – food and staff are lovely, too. No, we don’t eat these reindeer, they are the owner’s pets! The grandchildren were taken in last year when, just before Christmas, the reindeer weren’t there, off on their world tour…

img_7329 img_7330Our tree is up, with each of these sweet girls representing one of our three daughters 🙂 img_7358A very happy holiday season to everyone out there, enjoy your families and take a moment to prepare for 2017! img_7390

Ho ho ho

Maybe it should be “ha ha ha” because when I said I’d be back in October, I didn’t mean mid-December on a crash course to Christmas. Ah well. The best laid plans…

But hey, look what snowed in for Advent this year – img_7290Meet my newest grandchild, my eldest daughter’s 4th child, a little girl called Joline who joined her big brothers and sister recently! She made them all wait a week for her, which was almost unbearably exciting and now they’re all thrilled, too cute. There are several family birthdays around now and she just waited to get one of her own… As usual and like her siblings, she was home from the hospital within a few hours and the next thing I heard, she was off to the Christmas market to celebrate being a day old lol! Go, Joline! Correct assumption: mother and baby are doing well 🙂

img_7260img_7220I love that Christmas in Switzerland is so tasteful in its decorations. It’s not considered a humourous time of year and lights are rarely coloured, with more emphasis on decorations made of natural materials and traditional colours. This is a local flower shop.

On a grey, rainy Saturday in mid-November, volunteers hung the town’s Christmas lights – these are the ones along our road… img_7211In town, a few streets along, it’s so pretty at the main station

Frauenfeld TG , 06.12.12 / Weihnachtsbeleuchtung in der Stadt Frauenfeld .

Frauenfeld Station

and there are some pretty projections, too, on some of the nicest buildings cxgue3zwwaeieezIt’s all very pretty indeed and worth taking a walk through town after dark or visiting the Christmas market or even just stopping for a mug of Glühwein (mulled wine) and/or some roast chestnuts… and then coming home again! IMG_5556

 

 

Not forgotten

Yes, I am still around – but sooo busy…

img_6757 img_6763A dozen or a score of books or so, and I can particularly recommend:

  • “Weathering” by Lucy Wood, which I think makes an excellent cold-weather or rainy-day read (not actually had any of that, but still!)
  • “Running Blind” and “The Freedom Trap” by Desmond Bagley, as exciting as back in the 80s, so any thriller by him, really!
  • “Headhunter” by Jo Nesbø – a clever plot, if a little primitive at times :o!
  • “Through the Language Glass” by Guy Deutscher (perception of colour in language) followed by
  • “Colour: Travels through the Paint Box” by Victoria Finley – these two go very well together…
  • Any of the Maigret books by Simenon, my duo was the Old Lady and the Dead Girl
  • A History of English Food by Clarissa Dickson-Wright, which is just what it says on the package, a great romp through a cuisine that has undeservedly got itself a bad name and is nothing less than fascinating!

A lot of knitting in the sun – when I get back home to Switzerland, there will be plenty to document 🙂

I even found some Breton wool, something I had never seen in the 25 years I’ve been coming here:

img_6887 img_6886On BBC Radio 4 this morning, they were discussing what “rest” means to various people – I can definitely say that for me, sunshine and a breeze through the trees, feet up with a book or some knitting, plenty of water and tea and beautiful surroundings certainly do the job! I really have nothing whatsoever to complain about. My husband joins me this week, too!

Back in October…

Determination

I’m determined to get up-to-date with this blog, even if it takes a good, long post, but today is the last day of June and of the first half of the year (and a mad one, at that!), so here goes…

The end of March brought our sunshine’s first birthday, which thrilled him no end! IMG_6120IMG_6284Now a busy toddler, he is as keen on bicycles as his elder brother was on tractors at the same age! His other grandad is a mechanic for two-wheelers, so perhaps this is genetic 🙂

Easter came and went – this year’s bunny set-up… IMG_1161A day’s wander around the pretty lakeside town of Zug and some digging around on the internet showed that the old town has changed little – although a whole street was lost in the 19th century, when it fell into the lake 😮 Zug Altstadt IMG_5892 This is part of the old city walls, and some of the towers are still standing, too – IMG_5898 Believe it or not (most foreigners wouldn’t lol!), this is the police station in Zug! IMG_5906

I finished with a spot of knitting down at the lake, on a dull but fairly warm spring day IMG_5908Just off to the right of this picture there is a small birdpark with a few exotic specimens, including a kookaburra (for my Australian readers!) and various other beautiful birds – a few gorgeous cranes that look as if they had flown directly out of a Chinese or Japanese silk embroidery or painting, so dainty and delicate.

I enjoyed some stained glass during a weekend in Lugano, firstly at the Hotel Villa Castagnola IMG_5909

and also at the beautiful Grand Café Al Porto IMG_6145

They remind me of the stained glass in my Granny’s 1930s house, which I have also always loved – this is a craft I would love to try out! IMG_5876

There was yet another lovely sundown over the city, too IMG_5920

Last year’s efforts in the garden began to become apparent once spring set in! IMG_6159IMG_6048IMG_6047Even our garden orchids bloomed, thanks to a late, cool spring where the snails and slugs preferred to wait for warmer temperatures. IMG_6658

There was a very brief but perfect visit to Brittany in April, the shortness tempered

IMG_6213 IMG_5988

by a few extra days in Normandy, seeing how aluminium boats are built and trying out yachts! IMG_6321 IMG_6348

For me, the absolute highlight was stopping off at Bayeux on the way home, to see the famous tapestry, an ambition of mine for many, many years – it’s fabulous! You aren’t allowed to photograph it, for fear of damage.IMG_6031bayeux-tapYou get such a feel of the movement and the atmosphere of the time – not bad for a 1000 year old tapestry in naïve style! I was recently pleased and surprised at the long attention span my 7-year old grandson showed as he listened to and looked at the story of Harold and William, fascinated by the brave knights, as vivid in his imagination, no doubt, as to generations of children before him!

Our trip to England to celebrate my granny’s 100th birthday did not quite go to plan – the best laid plans of mice and men… My mother’s report of the events is probably the easiest way to catch up on that 😮

https://catterel.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/roller-coaster-month-of-may/

https://catterel.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/consequences-of-talking-to-strangers/

We had one day out in the midst of this – a gorgeous, warm, sunny day to take a walk in Himley Park in Dudley IMG_6114 IMG_6116 IMG_6120followed by a canal walk at Bratch Locks, just outside Wombourne, on the Staffordshire-Worcestershire Canal. The Locks were built in the late 1700s and it’s always fascinating to watch the narrowboats (6’8″-7′, no more!) go through. IMG_6498 IMG_6531 IMG_6545Hungry by this time, we headed out to Wightwick Manor, which I wrote about way back in November 2012 (https://thelittlewashhouse.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/local-interest/) for a bite to eat in their charming stable café and a wander around the house and gardens in finer weather – always a beautiful and fascinating place. IMG_6558The last time I was there I bought two lovely warm recycled wool blankets that have been extremely useful as well as attractive; this time I chose fabric napkins with a view to cutting down on the paper kind – and of course, it had to be a William Morris design! When I got them home, I laughed to realise my very good friend had given me potholders in the same design and colourway just a couple of years ago – she obviously knows me well 🙂 It’s good to have things that make you smile!IMG_6636

Going to England for Granny’s May birthday has always included looking for a bluebell wood, and we found one right in the middle of the local town park – gorgeous! thumb_IMG_1242_1024By this time, it was mid-May and time for a “real” holiday! I know that sounds ridiculous after all the trips we’ve had this year, but they have mostly been extended weekends or a few days snatched here and there and work being done all the time, so the two weeks we spent on Lake Constance were a “proper” holiday, no laptops allowed. We had lots of visitors aboard, not all at the same time, but it was a fun way to spend our days, with many rewards (not to mention what seemed like a thousand beautiful sunsets, even on the rainy days!). Our anniversary roses travelled with us, safely stowed in the bottle-safe when we were under sail, fetched out in each harbour 🙂 IMG_6677 IMG_6731 IMG_6207 IMG_6234 IMG_6827 IMG_1212 IMG_6892 IMG_6895Lake Constance is 65 km or so long, with the River Rhine flowing through it, which means it is no hardship to spend a couple of weeks sailing around it, year on year. This year we moored in two small harbours we’d never been to before, and we’ve been doing this for 15 years, now! Don’t be misled by the calm waters on the pictures – we also spent a day sailing in very rough weather with heavy rain, high stormy winds and waves that were easily 2 metres high, taking a wet but fast 4 hours to cross from Friedrichshafen to Konstanz… Bodensee

The garden is at its very best in late spring – IMG_6253 IMG_1217IMG_1257but so are some other local gardens, this one at Schloss Herdern up on the hill between us and the lake, overlooking the River Thur valley. IMG_6270 IMG_6277But I’m not even done, yet – are you even still with me, here?! 😮

Off we went to Sardinia, invited on yet another trip to try out some very slick yachts! From a rainy Zurich, we were flown to the Costa Smeralda and Porto Rotondo, for sunshine, beaches and wonderful seafood – as well as the yachts 🙂 Two days of regatta (i.e. quite a hectic time, and thanks to Lupo for allowing us to take part on his yacht!) was followed by a more leisurely outing on the fanciest yacht I’ve been on yet.. fantastic. The Med was kind to us and once I’m done with exploring the north, I may well come round to the idea of spending more time in a warmer climate lol! IMG_7020 IMG_6316 IMG_7035 IMG_6325 IMG_7063 IMG_7084 IMG_6372 IMG_7216As if we hadn’t spent enough time messing about in boats (Ratty was right!), we had a very late start to the home season with our own little 15 SNS yacht… and promptly sailed into a storm. Still, by the time we got to our home mooring, everything had dried out again and now we’re all set for the summer 🙂 IMG_7237 IMG_7239There is a terrific amount of water in the lake this year – normally we have to go down 3 or 4 steps to get onto the jetty! IMG_6411Final stop of the first half of 2016 was Oslo – fulfilling a lifelong ambition of mine to get to Scandinavia but also a birthday trip for my husband; another long weekend, coincidentally (not!) at midsummer. Suffice to say I loved it and if anything ever goes wrong in Switzerland, I would happily move to Norway (well, you never know, do you?!)… IMG_6432 IMG_6500IMG_6502 IMG_6567 IMG_6583 IMG_6588 IMG_6591That last is the view over Oslo and the Oslofjord from the Voksenåsen, a hotel and conference centre that is reached by underground train as it’s within the city limits!!! It was deserted when we arrived, in preparation for a wedding, but a shout out to them for nevertheless greeting us warmly, allowing us to sit and enjoy the view and even rustling up delicious sandwiches for us and not hassling us to leave before the wedding party arrived – much appreciated!! I could have stayed up there forever. Easily.

And: the Norwegians have really pretty money!! 🙂 norwegian_kroner