On skiing and looking elegant

– though admittedly not at the same time!

On Saturday I went skiing. I also went skiing on Sunday, but I’ve already written about that here. This is going to mess up the chronology of my posts, but hey… deal with it.

After 3 weeks of thawing and piffling about snowing-but-not-settling, it finally snowed properly again :). My Ski-Partner (D) wrote (on Friday – spontaneity is of the essence :)) to tell me it had snowed and to ask whether Saturday or Sunday suited me better. I had nothing planned for either day (except revision, church, dancing and a phone call to a really-good-friend-I-don’t-talk-to-nearly-often-enough) so we agreed to spend Saturday afternoon on the hill we’d been to before.

A late night of last-minute planning and faffing about was followed 8 hours later by a longer-than-expected phonecall. Turning the computer on to look up the bus/train timetable meant a skypecall with my grandfather ensued, and by the time my pizza was finished and I was dressed for the snow, I’d phoned D twice to change the time he was supposed to meet me and missed yet another bus. I ended up walking to the trainstation (via my workshop, because my ski stuff’s there), practically having to drag myself up the steps behind my house. If I hadn’t been so intent on not-having-to-phone-and-say-I-was-going-to-be-even-later, carting my ski kit across the carpark to the station would’ve been the last thing I felt like doing. The journey was uneventful and I was there before D which made me feel slightly less bad for the late start. He also reassured me that being late wasn’t a problem – he’d finally done all the things he’d been putting off doing for weeks and would have started on filing receipts if I hadn’t finally managed to catch a train :).

In short, although I was looking forward to it, I felt exhausted before we began. Despite having had a good night’s sleep, I hadn’t slept enough during the week to be really awake, everything ached, I was stiff, and grouchy and just generally not on top form. Putting my ski-boots on was painfull and lifting up the hill more so (uh, riding the lifts is known as lifting, I wasn’t trying to move mountains by hand). Getting off the lift at the top of the hill and thinking about skiing down it, or anything involving moving or putting pressure on my feet or my shins (the boots come up to about halfway) was bordering on masochism.

I moaned and whinged and asked if we could go home now. His answer? “It’ll wear off once you’ve got started – I give you 3 runs before you’re fine…” ARGH. Thanks for the sympathy vote then!

He grinned at me and off we went.

It was better than expected. 2 runs later I’d stopped hobbling, the run after that started being fun, and the rest of the evening was super.

It isn’t fair that other people get to be right so often!

πŸ˜›

We had thirty-something runs on the card to use up, so we skiied until we ran out (2 or 3 hours).

When we did run out, I wasn’t really ready to stop, but I was willing to agree that it was late and D’s hands were cold and overdoing things is silly. Also, I was promised hot chocolate and cake. That, if nothing else, was a good incentive.

We stomped back to the car (try doing anything else in ski boots) and found it iced shut. There was no way the key was going to turn in the driver’s door and no way it was even going to go in to the keyhole in the passenger’s. I suggested we try the boot. After a lot of huffing and puffing, he got it open. Then we had to re-thaw our hands to get the string off the fiddly little hooks so we could take the parcel shelf out. The boot doesn’t stay open by itself, so we took it in turns to hold it up, breathe on our hands and mess about with the hooks. After a longish while, all was ready for my big moment. Round about then I figured I could hardly keep my skiboots on in the car, so I continued the breathe-on-hands, moan, whinge, breathe-on-hands routine, this time replacing the shelf hooks with boot buckles.. To be fair though, I don’t think I’ve ever taken my boots off quicker. Especially the second one. Once the first one was off, my foot was very exposed. The comparative warmth of a frozen car was incredibly appealing.

With my feet steaming/freezing merrily behind me, I clambered into the boot and slithered, courtesy of my slithery waterproof ski-trousers, headfirst over the backseat, just about rescuing my nose from the end of the handbrake, and hauled myself through the gap in the seats and into the driver’s seat. YEAH! Now to open the door..

It did, just about, agree to my light persuasion tactics, though the passenger door didn’t, and my shoulder forgave me pretty quickly.

As I sat in the front seat, thoughtfully putting my normal boots on, I wondered why the whole thing had been so much less spectacular than when other people talk of doing it. D, busy with getting the skis and boots and helmets and gloves arranged into a well-known phrase or saying (anyone apart from my family say that?) on the back seat, paused to thank me for opening the doors and declared I was a very elegant slitherer.

Then we went back to the cafe and ate cake πŸ™‚ and frothy hot chocolate.

And that was the end* of another good day.

πŸ™‚

*except it wasn’t really the end because I still had the drive to the station, the ride to the stop next to my workhop, the half hour skis-and-boots drying rigmarole and the walk home to look forward to :). I think I deserved my sleep when I finally got into bed

On doing things I’m good at…

Today I excelled at the things I do well πŸ™‚

I went to bed in the early hours of the morning, far later than I originally wanted to, after distracting myself with other peoples’ blogs and cooking a galoptious potfull of almost inedible brown gloop.

I slept until almost midday, whereupon I proceded to lounge about in bed until about half past midday alternately reading email on my phone, updating my phone book (my old phone is back from the dead :)) and sleeping.

A friend phoned me. I phoned her back (I don’t pay to phone people*) and we talked. And talked. And talked. For 4 and a half hours πŸ™‚ And that didn’t officially break my record πŸ˜‰ Was good though. And as well as enjoyable, parts of it were even productive – she’s back at school so I asked her lots of questions about what she knows (= lots). A couple of years ago I did the same course, so I have the course book (and a big head ;))

Once we decided we’d talked long enough we hung up and texted each other instead πŸ™‚

At some point after that I fell asleep. Again.

When I woke up and noticed that it was dark outside I remembered all the plans I’d had for the day. One of my more urgent plans had been to go shopping and buy more looroll. Sometimes (read “extremely often”) it gets to Saturday evening and I decide I have enough food to get me through until Monday and don’t bother going out. Sometimes, like today, this isn’t really a viable option. I looked at bustimetables and figured I needed to leave in 10 minutes – which left me no time to shower, and I really needed to shower – or 40 minutes – which gave me plenty of time to do nothing for a while before I went through the whole, get undressed-wet-dry-dressed rigmarole. I obviously did nothing long enough to miss both busses, and a couple of others.

I hadn’t eaten all day, what with hardly leaving the bedroom and all, so I was starving by the time I was washed, dressed and ready to go out. I cooked a load of spaghetti and warmed up some of the brown gloop. Being left overnight often does wonders for food. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case, and all the posh-mushroom flavour I’d carefully disguised yesterday had come back in full force. I did some more disguise work and managed to eat about 3 forkfulls before realising I had 4 minutes to be at the busstop in time to catch the last bus to the shop-I-don’t-mind-going-to-if-I’m-late-remembering-I-need-to-buy-things.. I left the house in a bit of a hurry, remembering just in time to take my purse out of my work bag and put it in my coat pocket.

This is a post about things I’m good at. It would obviously not be complete if it didn’t include getting to within 200 yards of a busstop in time to see the bus pull away. I could have made it (I think) if I’d run (like I usually do). The thing was, it had snowed, and the ground was that kind of slippery where you’re not sure which bits are safe and which bits are going to make you fall over. I don’t particularly like running at the best of times, and any running which results in me falling over is my least favourite kind of running. I walked sedately up the hill, watched the bus drive sedately up the hill past me and off into the distance then walked sedately past the busstop and into town, quietly cursing the fact that this meant I’d have to go to my least favourite supermarket. It’s the biggest, most confusingest, longest-opening supermarket in my town and while it’s not actually as bad as some of its brothers and sisters (which take up 2 floors) I think it’s pretty grim, in a I’m-still-thankfull-it’s-open-and-willing-to-sell-me-looroll-at-10pm-on-a-Saturday kind of way.

One of the things I most dislike about the shop is its maze-like qualities, and its inability to arrange things in the same way as other supermarkets. I am generally in favour of difference, but I appreciate things being logical, and putting milk in a completely different section from things like yogurt and cheese just baffles me. However. I’m slowly getting the hang of their reasoning and made it to the looroll department without too many problems. As I got there I stepped onto a piece of thick packaging paper which someone had kindly left on the floor, skidded, just about managed to get off the paper and back on to the floor without damaging myself or knocking anything off the shelves and came to a halt 3 cm away from some bloke who looked bemused and carried on with his last minute shopping.

A minute or so later, as I was faced with the near impossible task of choosing between 57 varieties of Vitamin B12, the bemused bloke approached me (of all people) to ask if I knew where the sugar might be hidden. Not having much of an idea, but not liking to be unhelpful, I pointed him in the direction of the baking things. I hope I was right. In that shop it’s liable to be kept next to the biscuits (because people put it in tea I suppose) or the fruit and veg (think strawberries and cream), or the shower gel/olive oil (sugar scrub). Or somewhere even less logical. Like I said, I hope I was right. He might have been there all night otherwise. Is it mean to be glad other people have the same problem finding things as me?

I nosed through most of an article about sexism-at-work and only thought about paying and going home when the speakers stopped playing elevator supermarket music to annouce that they were about to shut and would I please like to make my way to the checkout. I put the magazine back on its shelf, found my way to the checkout desk, paid and, surprisingly, caught the bus home without having to wait 27 minutes first.

People warn me not to go shopping hungry. I was, but I was also tired/not-particularly-awake so I didn’t buy loads of random stuff. I only barely remembered what I was there for. In the end I bought looroll, 3 boxes of milk, 2 boxes of cocoa, more B12 tablets and a small tube of water-and-heat-resistant glue apparently suitable for sticking glass together. The checkout lady must wonder about the lives people lead.

Once I was home I ignored 3 years of cooking lessons and re-reheated the spaghetti mixture which I ate in front of the computer and a lot more blog posts with the odd Youtube video/picture-of-a-cat thrown in for good measure.

I didn’t declutter anything. I didn’t start the new project I promised myself I was going to start in February. I didn’t wash the floor in the kitchen or take the organic-waste outside to the bin. I didn’t do any washing.. And I didn’t finish my calendar page.

I am about to go to bed. It’s much later than I’d planned. Tomorrow I will wish I’d gone to bed earlier. That, too, is something I’m good at.

*okay, so obviously I do pay the phone company, it just doesn’t bother them if I phone anyone or not..

On a wet and windy night

A wet and windy night met her at the door and accompanied her to the entrance of the station. She was almost glad of the company.

The day had started so well. That surprised her. Recently, her days had all started with a bleary haze, been greeted with a grumpy monolgue of varying lengths and volumes and drawn out with a mix of frustrated silence, cheery banalities and the smell of beer. Today was different. It was a lot less bleary for a start, there was fruit juice and the warm smell of fresh (from frozen ;)) breadbuns. There was a walk to the busstop at something which resembled a ‘leisurely’ pace. There had been a short, gruff, “Good Morning” followed by a distinct lack of monologue. Shortly afterwards, she’d come back from the toilet to find her new ‘ProjectMeister’ waiting for her with 2 2litre beakers and some encouraging words. The grumpy voice took it’s leave with a terse “‘bye” and pulled the door firmly shut behind itself.

The ProjectMeister discussed the new project with our heroine and mentioned his interest in glassblowing. 35 minutes later he walked out of the workshop proudly holding the world’s first trianglular spiral like a trophy.

She was left with a new sense of purpose; somehow the motivation vacuum had been temporarily turned off. She relished the prospect of doing something worthwhile for someone who was not only interested and interesting but was also capable of picking up new ideas and running with them, despite them still being fresh and not quite totally thought out yet.

After a remarkably pleasant morning of trial and error and a home-made ready-meal for lunch, the grumpy voice made a reappearance.

In the distance the motivation vacuum started ticking over, vibrating lightly.

The new project was packed away for the next opportunity. There was a more urgent project waiting. It had been her custom-made baby originally, but the custom had changed and the baby was too small. The grumpy voice had tried to steal it, discussing designs with the custom-meister (;)), the designs she’d helped develop. It was hardly fair she thought, he doesn’t even understand why it has to be like that, or care about the problems behind the idea. She supposed he’d meant well. He’d told her she wasn’t to do any more project work and to spend the time practising for her upcoming exam – “you need all the practise you can get, and then some” was his reasoning. Since then there’d been a stream of interesting projects and they’d all been removed from her clasp by the voice of reason. And now her baby was going to be mangled. It was unfair. There had been an exchange of words and a half-victory yesterday afternoon. “It’d better be finished by tomorrow” he’d said, hurling it back to her before packing up to go home, barely concealing his discontent and leaving the unspoken threat hanging in the air between them.

Tomorrow was now. She wouldn’t work on untempered glass which had cost her an evening. She should have started on it as soon as the voice had left, but she’d been so wrapped up in the new [semi-secretly accepted] project, that she’d almost succeeded in blocking out it’s feeble cries. Besides, having been shut out of her baby’s future, she hadn’t listened to the final decisions and since she couldn’t get through to the CustomMeister she had no way of knowing what to do until the voice returned and deigned to enlighten her..

The CustomMeister appeared just before the voice, though luckily there was just enough time before his arrival to work out what went where and at what angle and all the rest of it.

She spent the last common hour of their day faffing about and trying to look occupied while fending off disdaining comments about her genius constuction (the grinder has a water-spewing arm which reaches the middle of the wheel. The beakers are far too large to fit around the arm, so she’d moved it out of the way and errected a make-shift water tower which did the same job, if a little less consistently).

Once the voice was gone, she gave her secret project a yearning glance and forced herself to concentrate on her baby. She’d fought for it afterall. She prepared the pieces, put the holders in place, got her rubber-tube out and attached it to one end, and started working. It was going well until she let her perfectionism have a word. “Too long” was all it said, but she had to agree. The work was undone and re-prepared. Thick glass, even boro, doesn’t appreciate being warmed up too quickly, especially unevenly.

[enter your favourite description of the noise glass makes while it thinks about breaking, followed by a couple of select expletives and a mumbled ‘pleasedon’tbreakpleasedon’tbreakpleasedon’t break’].

She’d just about finished patching the cracks up and started joining the pieces together for the second time, when one of the holders started to wobble. She poked it a bit and it seemed ok. A few minutes later the other holder joined in. Argh. Swivelling quarter of a turn in her swivvel-chair to sort out the holders, she caught the tube on something (maybe the burner? or the armrest? or the table? or…) and was unable to prevent the inevitable.

Glassblowing isn’t always a spectator-sport. Children should be issued with earplugs on arrival if the chance of increasing their vocabulary worries their parents.

Sweeping up the fragments, she reminded herself that she was going dancing later and so still had a good hour or so to make a new baby (psssh! not like that!). And then she discovered something unimaginably terrible. Each piece had been made up of multiple Glass Things joined together. The flanges and ventiles were all still ok, if a little unconnected, EXCEPT for the ONE sort of ventile they didn’t have in stock.

A couple of minutes later she’d checked all the cupboards and the drawer or spares and random bit and found nothing suitable. She’d have preferred to confess to the CustomMeister there and then but he was as elusive as ever. She had to admit other people probably had better things to do than sit by their phones waiting to be phoned with bad news.

The motivation vacuum roared into action. Nothing more to be done except wait for tomorrow.

After eating the leftovers of her lunch, she made her way towards the station. In the rain, and the wind.

Dear ticketmachine…

Thank you so much dear ticket machine. You must know how much I love getting to stations on time with the right money, typing my destination and how many tickets I need into your slightly greasy screen only to then miss the train I came to catch because you don’t like the taste of my money. It must make your day just that much sweeter!

I appreciate the care you go to, to give me the right change and print the right details on my ticket.. and you put up with all the grubby fingers poking your screen all day, and all the abuse from impatient people…

But is it really asking too much, to want to catch a train on time for once?

I might also be impatient, but at least I’m polite… and I didn’t punch or kick you.. I very patiently fed you my 20€ note 57 times (plus/minus a few) and you rudely spat it back out 57 times.That’s hardly helpful, is it? Hardly Customer Service. When I finally gave up and asked the other machine it obliged first time.. Can I suggest you ask it to teach you some manners?

I really hope that we will one day be successful ‘business partners’. Until then I will go directly to the other machine and you won’t get the chance to spit my money back at me.

Your friendly but frustrated Ticketbuyer

Skiing – part 2 – skiing

πŸ™‚

πŸ™‚

Β πŸ™‚Β  πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Skiing is cool πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

πŸ™‚

πŸ™‚

πŸ™‚

As I said in part 1, the piste is less than half an hour from my Ski-partner’s house, and he lives just over an hour away (assuming you use public transport and it’s snowing. If you drove on a sunny day it’d actually be more like 45 mins total). We chose the third closest piste to my ski-partner’s house, the other 2 are smaller and/or easier.. Ours had one slope, divided into 3 by 2 sets of 2 T-bar lifts. They progressed [minimally] from easy to less easy, but none of them was too scary. The lifts ran until 10pm, with floodlights turned on as soon at dusk approached. It wasn’t a slope for super skiers, and I think even I would get bored after a while because they’re very short and you spend more time waiting for and riding the lift than actually skiing, but it was the perfect slope to start the season with πŸ™‚ Especially teacherless. I spoke to my teacher afterwards about how different it was skiing by myself, and how many bad habits I’ve probably got into, and he said it was good that I’d gone without him because I ask too many questions and need to play and figure things out for myself and not just do what he says. I will have to think about that.

Yesterday’s snow was ‘matschig’ – a great word which means something like slushy, except it wasn’t wet, just really really soft. Unfortunately there wasn’t very much snow, which meant that by the end of the evening there were bald patches, where the grass showed through and where turning wasn’t much fun.

It was about -5 degrees which is plenty warm enough if you’re dressed well πŸ™‚ Having stayed up longer than I’d planned to the evening before, washing my new thermal undies in the sink*, I was extremely pleased to register that it was well worth it. The only place I noticed the cold was my nose …… and my wrists when I hadn’t tucked my gloves into my sleeves properly ;). The gloves are brilliant. I bought them in Aldi for a fiver and was a little sceptical about whether they’d be any good when it got ‘properly’ cold. I borrowed some ‘tried and tested’ leather skiing gloves from my teacher, but left them in the car, so I could test mine first. I figured that since this was a very small ski ‘resort’ where you can practically see your car from any point on the slope, it was better to test them here than at one where it takes half an hour and a ride in a gondola to get back to the carpark. I was very pleasantly surprised – they’re fantastic πŸ™‚ Not only coldproof, but also waterproof and much more flexible than the leather ones πŸ™‚

They weren’t the only bit of kit I love. I also love having a helmet (keeps your ears warm as well as protecting your head from malicious T-Bar poles), a good jacket (also borrowed) and good socks (mine!). If it wasn’t such a hassle going to the loo, I would also love my salopets. *thinks* Na, I guess I love them anyway..Β  falling over wouldn’t be nearly as fun if it meant getting wet! And they’re well padded as a bonus. Then there’s the boots. they’re tight – a must if you want to have any control over your skis and to reduce the chance of breaking your ankles – but not [really] uncomfy; not til you’ve skied for a couple of hours anyway, and by that time you’re so high on mountain air and adrenalin you don’t really notice. I stuck [cheap] compeeds just above my heels prophylaxically (if that’s a word ;)) but I forgot my arches. It luckily wasn’t a problem, but I will try to remember to do them next time.

I have allround ‘carving’ skis (borrowed) which are just generally brilliant, but most ‘useful’ on harder snow where you can dig the edges in and go round corners on the curved ‘blades’. They’re almost as long as I am tall (= not very ;)) and shaped like a loosely drawn elongated sandtimer – thinner in the middle than at the ends. Putting your weight on one side of your foot tilts the ski slightly. The thinner middle part of the ski would be raised off the ground if the ski wasn’t flexible. Luckily they are, so they bend, allowing the middle to touch the ground too. The ski is curved, so having the entire length of the edge on the ground means the ski automatically forms part of the circumference of a circle. When you add motion, you carry on round the rest of the circle. If you increase the tilt (= the angle between the ski and the ground), you make the radius of the circle smaller, and if you keep the ski flat on the ground you go forwards and ignore the circles. Although you generally learn to ski by ploughing (toes turned inwards), as you progress you try to keep both skis parallel. If you put your weight on, say, the left side of each ski, you will [most probably] turn left. If you put your weight on the right side of each ski, you will [most probably] turn right. If you put your weight on the inner side of each ski, you will [most probably] start ploughing and slow down. If you decide to put weight on the outer edges of both skis you’re liable to land on the floor. In other words; the thinness [combined with flexibleness] makes the ski bend more easily, the curves make them turn more easily and you can steer by putting weight on different sides of your feet. Skiing in S-curves feels something like this: skies flat, weight to right, skis flat, weight to left, skis flat, weight to right, skis flat (etc etc etc).

On ‘hard’ or powdery snow, the ‘sharpened’/filed edges dig in like an iceskate so you don’t slither about. However. When the snow’s really soft you tend to sink in a bit and slither around corners regardless of sharpened and curved edges. I actually quite like it when it’s soft, but it does mean you have to work harder to get your skis to do what you tell them, OR, you ‘go with the flow’ and take it as it happens without being too decisive/bossy about where you want to turn.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I am probably talking rubbish here.. if you are a proper skier, please feel free to correct me, bearing in mind I’ve just been for the fourth time I can really remember and am basically happy when I get to the bottom of a slope with everything intact and without running anyone over)

When lots of people ski and snowboard down the same bit of slope for most of a day the snow gets pushed about and heaped into piles. Because it’s easier to go round them than over them, the piles get bigger. The piles are called moguls, and sometimes whole stretches of piste are prepared with them especially. There are loads of techniques for going round them, over them, turning on/before/after them and I’m not proficient in any of them πŸ™‚ Despite my lack of technique, I can generally make my way down a slope with them on it πŸ™‚

(Disclaimer: Again, I might be talking rubbish here, too. Fact is though, at the end of the day the slopes are always more lumpy than first thing in the morning when the snow’s been brushed into place by the piste-basher (They’re really called that – I looked it up!)).

I practiced ploughing, going from one side of the slope to the other in long, slow, meandering S-curves, turning while keeping my skis parallel, going backwards (not for long though, it’s too unnerving when there are small people whizzing about round you and also when it’s dark. And when you’re a scaredy cat like me ;)), catching and letting go of the T-Bar lift from the left and right hand sides, jumping (= more like being thrown) off ramps made by the piles of snow, skiing with and without poles, skiing round and over the moguls, something called “hoch und tief Entlastung” in German, and which I haven’t found a translation for yet,Β  skiing ‘schuss’ (straight down the hill without curves) in plough and parallel, and falling over.

I’m going to need a lot more practice – good thing my teacher doesn’t need my kit for a while, and my ski-partner’s willing to go again soon πŸ™‚

Facit:

Skiing’s very cool.

And made even better by it being doable as a day-trip. I think I was out of the house for 12 hours max including 5 hours on the slope and approximately half an hour in the car for lunch. If I hadn’t stopped at work to blow the skis and boots dry (I have an “air-gun” I use to blow bits of glass off my table), or if I’d hobbled faster, it would have been even less.. It’s not very expensive either if you have (or can borrow) your own kit. We bought 50 points on a plastic card – he already had some but we weren’t sure how many or how often we wanted to attempt to kill ourselves πŸ˜‰ – equivalent to 50 journeys on the lift. The card cost 4€ to borrow, which you get refunded when you give it back, the 50 points cost 17.50€ which we skied away (I think it was actually 26 or 27 runs each) over the course of the afternoon/early evening. We took our own lunch, and the train from here costs maybe 7€ each way. I’m not sure, because I have a seasonticket for 2 zones and buy any extra zones as 4-journey-tickets which cost less per journey. = 20-25€ for the whole day out, muscle ache thrown in gratis πŸ™‚

 

*I’d put off washing them because it meant taking 3o seconds to find a pair of scissors and cut the labels off.. and besides, there was no snow when I bought them πŸ˜‰

On skiing – part one – planning and ironing

I’m going skiing tomorrow!! πŸ™‚

Yay πŸ™‚

It’s snowed quite a lot this week and skiing’s cool, so when I looked out of the window at lunchtime and realised it was the weekend soon I emailed a friend and we organised an afternoon’s skiing. He lives about half an hour away from a piste with a ski lift. Not a huge one, but pretty good for getting the hang of hurtling down snow covered mountains at 40mph (???) after a year of meandering along reasonably flat pavements.

I haven’t been skiing very often. I went for a week as a kid (I think I was 5) and again for 3 days (= 1 and a month later another 2) last spring, and I’m hooked. If it hadn’t been so warm and the snow so slushy, I would have loved to have gone again. And now it’s a new year with new snow and a new chance to slide down a mountain on my face with my feet in the air πŸ˜‰

After work (I stayed on for a couple of extra hours to practise for my exam) I remembered that going skiing involves a heck of a lot of kit, none of which I own, apart from the socks. I have a friend who is handily a skiing teacher with enough skiing siblings/family that I’ve always been able to borrow everything I need from him and/or his relatives. He lives about an hour away and in the wrong direction to combine it with going to the ‘mountain’ tomorrow. I came home, made dinner, ate half of it and set out to collect ‘my’ stuff. (Yes. Obviously I asked him first. Who do you think I am??). I even got to the busstop before the bus did πŸ™‚

When I got there he’d arranged all the things he remembered me wearing last year (and some others as well, just in case) in the hall. I tried on 2 pairs of boots because I have an awful memory for things like that. Ask me the lyrics of ancients songs, or what cereals non-main-characters eat for breakfast – no problem. Ask me what colour my boots or gloves were a year ago and I’m stumped.

Then we moved on to filing and waxing my skis.

For anyone who doesn’t already know; skis slide better if they’re waxed, and you have more ‘grip’ (for want of a better word) when the edges are sharp (especially when it’s icy). I haven’t skiied enough to really tell the difference between blunt and sharp, polished and unpolished. I also have a great teacher who makes sure my skis are well sorted out before I go anywhere πŸ˜‰ However. I think everyone who has ever been iceskating with blunt skates can appreciate the benefits of having them sharpened and the priciple’s a similar one.

Usually people hire their skis from a hut full of minions who do everything for you, or take their own there before heading for the hills. If you ski a lot it makes sense to do your own. It goes something like this*:

  • lay your skis upside down on 2 trestles
  • brush all the old wax off the undersides of your skis with a softish wire brush
  • brush the bits off with a very soft ‘hairy’ brush
  • file the rims/edges with a pretty cool file holder, making sure the file’s facing the right way
  • apply melted wax to the entire under surface. This is done by holding a block of wax against a warm iron and letting the ensuing drips land on the skis in a somewhat orderly fashion (i.e. spread equally along the ski, not all clumped tgether). The skis are then ironed to spread the wax blobs into a thin layer
  • leave to cool
  • scrape the excess wax off the bottom and sides of the ski with a plastic scraper
  • brush the ski once along its length with the soft wire brush

Apparently there are different types of wax for different types and temperatures of snow. There’s also go-faster wax, which is more expensive, and wax which you put on cold (instead of melting it on) and which rubs off after a couple of runs.. Until this evening, my knowledge of wax extended to candles and bees. I have now glanced at a world beyond my understanding. I smiled and nodded (and asked questions to show how much I still didn’t understand) and got on with watching him prepare my skis. I had a go at filing them myself, but I’m not very good..

Then we did his. He’s going training with his racing team tomorrow.

Somewhere between the third and fourth ski he looked at the time. The busses to the station from where he lives go every hour in the evening so missing them is a problem. I had 13 minutes to be on it or at least at the busstop. We left the fourth ski to its fate and rushed around finding poles, a bag to put my skis and poles in, a bag for the boots and gloves and goggles, the backpack I’d brought with me and left in another room, my ‘normal’ gloves… and eventually I was loaded up and on my way out of the door and he could go back to his ski.

There must be a more elegant way of getting on and off busses carrying that much stuff, but I haven’t mastered it yet.

I work next to the station, so I let myself in and left my ski stuff in the workshop to save having to lug it home tonight and back again tomorrow. Being at work at night is a very strange feeling.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, even if I am a little scared of going without a teacher – I haven’t been skiing since last year – but I wish I’d done more leg-muscle-training… I have a feeling I’m going to need a very long hot bath when I hobble back tomorrow evening!

* Please find someone who knows what they’re talking about to show you how to do it properly, before tackling your own skis…. don’t take my word for it…. please…

Click here for Part two…

On Flying…

A new year, a new habit. Why not flying? πŸ˜‰

Except I don’t mean flying in either the jumping-off-cliffs-and-flapping-your-arms-about sense, or the more civilised sense, elbowing my way through the masses of small children and tense parents into MY seat on an aeroplane. I do a fair bit of that as it is.

I mean the kind of flying coined by the Flylady, Marla Cilley. It means ‘Fully (or finally) Loving Yourself’ and is (as far as I can tell) a programm to get your house and life ‘sorted out’ without ending up a nervous quivering wreck.

The basic idea behind it (again, as far as I can tell) is that if you’re happy and you know it, and not tired, you are more likely to get stuff done, and if you get stuff done, you’re more likely to be happy. Which I guess I agree with. She says a lot about getting rid of perfectionism, and that doing something is better than doing nothing, even if you can’t do whatever-it-is perfectly right now. Waving a wet mop at the floor is better than nothing, even if it isn’t as good as getting down on your hands and knees and scrubbing. Twice. With some kind of cleaner. And then polishing it. It’s about starting, then continuing in ‘baby-steps’ instead of crashing and burning and giving up. It’s about getting more sleep and giving yourself permission to stop rushing about finishing things before it gets to 3am. It includes motivation to cook better andΒ excercise more which is something I struggle with, as my shortage of posts in December will testify to. It’s about attending to your own oxygen mask loving yourself first, so you can love other people.

At the end of it all, or more as a result of it all, the idea is to be a happy, rounded, fit, healthy, awake person, the sort who isn’t tired or stressed out and who has time to bake cookies and go dancing, who remembers to post birthday cards in time for them to get there, and who can invite people over at the drop of a hat because she has such a clean, tidy, welcoming house.

Not much of that sounds like me. Yet. *cackles*

– I don’t remember the last time I posted ANYthing on time, went to bed before midnight, had a tidy house for more than an evening or made biscuits (Ok. I made mincepies while I was at my folks over Christmas, but that doesn’t count). I have a huge problem getting up and to work on time. I have far less energy than I think I ought to have. I get home and can’t be bothered to cook, because I’d have to wash the saucepans from the night before first. Eveytime I want to go dancing I have a minor breakdown because I can’t find anything clean and/or presentable to wear. When I invite anyone over I have to work out how long I need to get it presentable before I suggest a day. Having cleaned like a wild thing, so that whoever’s supposed to come over can, it takes less than a week to get back to the way it was before.. ARGH. –

I found the site a year or so ago, and even signed up for it and read [some of] the emails. BUT. I didn’t ‘jump on the bandwagon’ as they say. I picked up [some of] the cooler tips (like leaving the roll of new bin liners between the dustbin and the current bag so you don’t have to look for them when you take the rubbish out), but I didn’t rush off and clean my fridge when they said “clean your fridge”, and I never really bothered with ‘decluttering’ or shining my sink.

This year… I’m going to try it out. ItΒ  feels a bit crazy, and if I’m honest, a little bit like a strange non-religious cult, but since this woman, the Flylady, has been going for over 10 years and has about a million followers she must have something going for her. Besides. I read yesterday, that the best way to prove something doesn’t work/isn’t true/is stupid, is to try it out and see instead of talking about it..

So. I’m going to do it. The beginning of a year seems a good place to start and my house could really do with it. Or I could. Or both.

I’ll write the missions on here, and maybe put before-and-after photos up if I think they’re interesting.

Watch this space.

On fireworks and busfares

I went to watch the advent fireworks in my town just now. They went off at 11pm. I caught the bus down and was there just in time to glance around the bargainboxes in MediaMarkt (late-night-opening tonight) and make my way to the square.

The fireworks were spectacular in the sense that all fireworks are spectacular, but not in the way some shows are just breathtakingly astounding. I could probably have seen them from my house – I live on a hill and have a pretty good view of the town – but if someone’s going to sponsor them, I think showing up is the least one can do. Besides I didn’t want to miss them, just supposing I couldn’t see them from here.

As I was waiting for the bus back home, a slightly drunken elderly gentleman joined me at the bus stop. He peered at me and announced that he’d seen me before. I hadn’t really looked at him until then, but when I did, he did indeed seem familiar. There ensued a short pause followed by a bout of questioning while we figured out the connection. He shares an allotment with a guy who works in the same building as one of the people who used to work for someone who spends a lot of time sitting in my workshop. At some point during the summer I had been invited to a barbecue party in the allotment and had presumably seen him there. What was that about less than 7 connections to anyone?

About then the bus came. I had my buspass with me this time so I just got on and sat down, expecting the half-stranger to do the same. He got on, but the busdriver wouldn’t let him pay with a 50€ note. So I bought him a bus ticket. :).

At some point (assuming he remembers once he’s got home and slept and sober), he’s going to give the money to the guy he shares an allotment with……

On fighting suitcases…

(-The story behind yesterday’s walk home-)

Over the years I’ve had a fair bit of practice at this. As a kid we went on holiday incredibly regularly. Mostly camping, or visiting grandparents, but nevertheless ‘going away’. This almost always calls for packing and carrying some kind of luggage. The folks packed the tent and other useful stuffages so I only had to pack MY things. Usually a backpack is enough for a short trip, but since we almost invariably drove to our final destination it didn’t really matter if things didn’t fit. We had the sort of suitcases you can sit on to do up, ones with buckles and locks. Later, ones with zips. When the family took up flying and hostelling, backpacking moved more into focus. We seemed to fly to the most distant airport from where we wanted to end up, and walk. Walking from an airport equates to carrying your backpack. We also spent considerable time travelling between towns and beaches and generally being on the move. Over time it became normal to have a really good think about whether something made the grade to stay packed, BEFORE setting out. When I started DofE I realised just how important it was to get everything into one backpack, including all the important stuff like tents, sleeping bags and stoves.. (Having a bag with decent straps is also sensible, but that’s a different story). Doing the Offa’s Dyke walk a couple of years later I was surprised to find that not everyone had had the same experience. We (as a group, so as not to name names) sent approximately 25 kg of ‘excess baggage’Β  home from a remote post office en route.

At some point in [my] history, suitcases with wheels became more common. I don’t know why they hadn’t been thought of before, but they’re a brilliant invention. Anyone who has tried travelling with 30kg of anything will back me up on this.

I moved to Germany 7 and a bit years ago and since then have had a lot of opportunity to fly, move house, visit people a long way off and go sightseeing. I have got through about 4 suitcases, with and without wheels, and have been known to pack my things in washing baskets. As a rule I have too much stuff and, despite all the warnings, still carry too much on a regular basis. Especially when coming back from shopping πŸ˜‰

Considering all this, I don’t seem to have made a lot of progress when it comes to actually fighting the silly things.

My folks were here recently and left me a ‘broken’ suitcase which I think originally belonged to my sister. I don’t really know where or how it’s broken, so I’ve been using it since to go shopping. I had a party at work (will probably make its own post soon) which I needed to cater for and this meant lugging drinks and food from town to my house, and from my house to work. When I usually go foodshopping, I take cloth bags with me, pick up an empty box while perusing the isles and therefore know how much more I can buy before my arms drop off. Once everything’s paid for it makes its way into my rucksack and/or my cloth bags and I go home. Easy. Ish. I live by myself, so most of the time I only have to feed one person. I eat enough, but there’s only so much food a person [of normal build] can get through so I don’t often have to carry THAT much home – unless Aldi has a good deal on huge plastic tubs or duvets or papercutting devices that is..

This time I knew I was feeding most of the people I spend time with at work and had come prepared. I had my sisters ex-suitcase with me.Β  I felt ready to take on the world. I got a trolley. WHOO!! – No more juggling with halffilled boxes while bending down to get something off the bottom shelf. No more onehanded unpacking. No more looking for a bigger empty box when the original becomes too full. Bliss.

The bliss lasted until I reached the other side of the till and realised I was going to have to give my trolley back.

Damn.

Then I remembered I had my suitcase.. So all was not lost.

While I don’t have anything very much against alcohol, I don’t see why I should buy it for other people when I don’t drink it myself. This doesn’t go down well in Germany. But anyway. My party, my rules. I bought enough for everyone to comfortably drink their usual fill, except I didn’t buy beer, I bought I bought fizzy water and fruit juice. This would be largely irrelevant, if it wasn’t for the fact that liquid is heavy. Very heavy. Heavier, in fact, than I’m guessing the suitcase had ever been subjected to previously. 18 bottles of water a 1.5L plus 16 L of fruitjuice = 43L. Assuming the packaging weighs nothing (which blatantly isn’t true) and that water and juice both weigh 1kg/L that’s 43kg. And I didn’t only buy drinks. I also bought crisps and other frivolities like onions and lettuce.

Having got myself and my shopping out of both the trolley and the shop, I realised I had left my buspass at home with my previous pile of shopping (even I don’t try to buy real food at the same time as drinks). I phoned a friend. No luck – when faced between going out for dinner and lugging the best part of 50kg up a hill I know what I would choose. They chose it too. The other people I tried phoning – the people I know have a car – were out. Walking it is then – YAY!! And then I found a bus ticket in my pocket. Not my buspass, where I can travel for ‘free’ (as long as I pay the monthly subscription), but a proper ticket which needs stamping. Better than nothing, and certainly better than walking the “long miles” (/4km) home (thanks RT).

Once on the bus I decided that my original idea was a very silly one, and that it made no sense to take anything home which was going to be needed for the party. I got off the bus at the stop closest to where I work (luckily on the same busroute) and tried to persuade the suitcase it wanted to come with me. It took more persuasion than I care to write about, but we both ended up on the pavement so it was okay. So far so good. Now to go about getting from the busstop to the party room. It is a stretch of maybe 150m. It usually takes about 2-3 minutes to get there, including the time you have to wait for the lights to go green. For this trip I think I needed something more in the region of 23 minutes. I stopped every few metres to let the blood back into my fingers and to get my breath back. I’d swap hands and tackle the next couple of metres and then stop again. I don’t remember the last time I made such slow and painfull progress.

When we finally got there, I unloaded everything liquid out of the bag and went home.
The next day (after a remarkably short night) I packed the 3 deep trays of freshly prepared lasagne into my trusty suitcase and trudged into work. They too were heavy, but nothing compared to the ordeal of the evening before.

The party happened, or didn’t as the case may be, and the leftovers were left for the next day. The next day came and went without making much of a mark on anything, which is why I came to once more be dragging my suitcase on and off busses and fighting for blood in my fingertips. However, I did leave the juice at work, to be collected at a later date. I might be a little overenthusiastic when packing but I don’t have a death wish.

The handle is made of plastic coated cloth sewn onto the end of the case, which I guess is pretty handy, but it does mean you have to either stoop or hold the case at about 45 degrees to the floor.

It bit me. Repeatedly.

For some reason I can only really pull suitcases or trolleys with my right hand as my left one stays too close to my body and so makes whatever I’m pulling bash my ankles. I’m used to having a telescope handle on my suitcases, which helps on the ankle-bashing front, but which this particular case doesn’t have. When you take a step the re-enforced end bashes into the back of your leg, and the handle digs into your hand and pinches the skin at the joints. Even when dragging with my right hand it bashed me. It might not have been an entirely fair fight, given that I still weigh more than it does, but I don’t think that gave me any advantages over it. I didn’t give up, but it didn’t either..Β  I suppose I must have won overall, since both I and it made it back in one piece, but I think I have to give it points for effort. It also appears to have suffered no damage at all, whereas my leg is decidedly more bruised than it was when I started.