On lacking expectation

I cycled to work this morning. It rained half the way there. The first half. Only the first half I suppose. I wasn’t expecting it to stop but it did.

***

After work, I had a plan to get a couple of trains to a distant part of town to try on a ski-helmet and pick up a pair of skis. After that I was going to get a train back and go and pick up the mattress.

***

I originally planned to leave my bike at work and swap it for the skis and possibly the helmet before cycling home. When I looked at the map and the local transport app at lunchtime, I discovered that I wouldn’t be home in time for the mattress if I relied on the buses to take me from A to B and B to C. I decided to take my bike and cycle from the station to the helmet, then to the skis and push the bike to the next station where a direct train would bring me to within 10 minutes of my flat.

***

Did anyone else notice the parts where I said plan and claimed it as my own?

Did all the alarm bells start ringing?

Did you feel the words “uh-oh” forming, ready to be released at a moment’s notice?

Did you see the chaos building up in the distance like the storm currently waiting to attack Berlin?

No? I didn’t either. I ran straight into it headlong.

I didn’t expect anything. But it expected me. I must be good company, or at least a regular visitor…

***

We had a fire alarm at work after lunch and before I could write my plan down.

Afterwards, I tried to get my work done so I could leave on time.

I almost did, too.

***

It wasn’t raining when I left my workshop so I packed my waterproof overskirt away in my panier.

It started raining just as I got outside the building. I don’t like being wet if it’s a cold kind of wet, and I especially dislike cycling in wet jeans, so I stopped and unpacked it.

I wasn’t expecting to spend time getting dressed once I’d left.

I didn’t expect the lift to be full when I got to the station so that I needed to wait for it to come up a second time.

I didn’t expect to miss the first train on my list of 3.

I didn’t expect the lifts at the second station to only go up when the train I needed to catch was a floor lower than the one I started on.

I didn’t expect the second lift, a lift I crossed a road especially to reach, to bring me back to the middle floor.

I didn’t remember my bike being so heavy when I decided to carry it down and up the next stairs I encountered.

I wasn’t aware that one station name in Berlin can actually mean 3 separate stations for the 3 types of train, and that they can be several hundred metres away from each other.

I didn’t appreciate having to visit each one of them to realise it.

I didn’t remember that the third train I wanted to catch only left once an hour.

I really didn’t like having to retrace my steps to get an alternative train from a station I’d already fought my way out of.

***

I didn’t check the map closely enough to know that the street I was looking for, started with one name and ended with a different one.

I didn’t realise that I cycled right past it without noticing.

I wasn’t paying enough attention as I started enjoying cycling along a straight cycle path without rain.

I wasn’t ready for the dark when the street lights stopped.

I wasn’t expecting my bike’s front light to be weaker than the wind-up torch I took on a night walk in 6th form.

I didn’t want to stop on the side of a busy but dark road with nothing but the dim glow of a fading dynamo to show where I was in order to check the map again.

I trusted Google when it recommended an alternative route from my current position when I finally felt safe enough to check.

I didn’t know, when I set out down the “dead end – pedestrian access only” road, that it would lead me into the middle of a very muddy field.

I didn’t know you could switch between the directions mode and the map mode without retyping the street name.

I didn’t know, once I was in a particularly boggy patch of field, whether it would be quicker to turn round and go back, or to carry on squelching.

I couldn’t imagine that I could be so scared of things that go bump (or knatterknatterknatter) in the dark.

I wasn’t expecting the torch on my phone to be so good.

I didn’t know in advance that I would rather cycle unnecessarily far by road, just to avoid a couple of hundred metres along a dark path through a woods

I didn’t know, when I set out from work, that I would arrive at the helmet man’s house later with the bicycle than I would have done without it.

I didn’t know, from the picture and the description, that the helmet would be just a smidgen too small.

I also didn’t know from the brief phone calls we’d had, that the seller would be so gracious about letting me traipse mud all through his immaculate house. “Relax! It’s all tiled and washable – it gets muddy every time I come in from working in the garden :)”

I didn’t know it would take me more than twice the time Google suggested to cycle across to the ski lady’s house.

I didn’t know that the skis would be so sharp that they’d take the paint off my handlebars when I rested them there.

I didn’t know that I would have such a problem steering when I got the skis into a stable position.

I couldn’t guess that the wind would pick up and join the pouring rain to slow down my attempts to get to the station while pushing my bike and balancing a pair of skis.

***

I didn’t expect to have to ask someone how to get into the train station.

I didn’t count on missing the last direct train of the evening and having to take three other indirect trains instead.

I didn’t think my phone battery would go down so fast, but I also didn’t think the last few percent would last all the way home.

I wasn’t expecting anyone to talk to me on the train, and when they did, I wasn’t expecting them to say, “don’t take this the wrong way, but I’ve got a wife and a kid waiting for me” as we got out at the same station.

***

I didn’t expect to get home more than 7 hours and 22km after leaving work, 3 hours later than I wanted to pick up the mattress.

***

Despite everything, I still feel it was a successful day..

One on which I feel I definitely earned my sleep.

***

Talking of sleep…I wasn’t planning on sleeping on the floor again tonight, but then, life always seems to have more in store for me than I could ever imagine.

(And I wasn’t expecting the neighbour to phone and apologize, but he did – assuming the mattress man is understanding enough not to sell the mattress to someone else tomorrow, we’re all set to pick it up in the evening 🙂 – wheee!)

On the morning after the last 4 days

I  CAN STILL WALK!!! 🙂

That’s the main thing, right?

I ache pretty much all over, and going downstairs isn’t a whole lot of fun, but it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it might be, not even as bad as last year, despite my lack of training beforehand and not feeling all that good most of the weekend. Although, thinking about it, maybe that’s the reason. Maybe I didn’t push myself as hard as I usually do, because I was more aware of my not-feeling-goodness. Who knows.

I’m happy I can still walk, and that I’m not properly ill.

On remembering and forgetting

It’s amazing what you can remember about things you haven’t done for months. It’s also amazing how much you forget.

I’ve skied for 2 of the 4 days. Today is the third day.

The first day, getting my boots on without help was the first hurdle, carrying my skis was good, standing up without falling over was better and I was so happy at still being able to turn corners and getting down the mountain in one piece that nothing else mattered much. I didn’t really notice how much my feet or my head hurt until I was in the car on the way home. I took a headache tablet after dinner and went to bed.

Yesterday, my feet hurt from the day before, my legs ached, my shoulders ached, my head was fuggy and my stomach had found something to complain about. I slithered my way down 2 runs and went to sit with the other ladies (who preferred sitting at the bottom to the mountain to actually skiing).
After lunch we decided to drive across the valley to the other lifts (same company so same ski passes). I was feeling a lot better, and there was better snow. Also there was a wide blue run open which presented a chance to practice technique instead of just getting to the bottom. 5 or 6 runs later I remembered what it felt like to know you’ll get down ok, and to enjoy the process, another couple of runs and I could concentrate on what my feet were doing and not on the slope (if you go down the same slope often enough you know what’s coming), and after that my feet were able to concentrate by themselves and leave me room to think about what I wanted to do, where I wanted to ski, to look at what the people around me were doing instead of hoping we wouldn’t collide, to just have fun with the mountain. I can’t believe I’d forgotten about that.

About 15 minutes before the chair lift closed I met one of the rest of the group on the way back from a red run. We decided to get one more go at it before the lift closed and set off. It’s SO much more relaxing to ski even the steeper slopes when you’re confident in your feet. We met some of the others at the top and came down as a group. When we came to a red-black crossing most of them went down the black slope. I dithered a bit until they said I could do it too and then joined them.

I did it too, I got down without panicking and only falling over a few times :).

And now it’s today.

I’m off out 🙂

On waiting

I’m in southern Germany in a hostel with 11 other people. The hostel has one shower and we’ve all spent the day on the slopes. I think I’m the last of the unshowered. I don’t care, I have a good book (and a post to write :)).

***

I hardly ever mind waiting as long as I have something to do (or read) – even 7 hour train journeys (which are basically just waiting to get somewhere) don’t bother me.

However. What really does bother me, is when there’s a queue and people push in. Especially when the pushers are children and nobody cares or says anything. Maybe being English is an unhelpful attribute when skiing, maybe I’m just not pushy enough, maybe my skiing trousers make me invisible, who knows. What I do know, is that people are inclined to push past you in the queue in an effort to get on the lift first. There are sneaky pushers and flat out blatant pushers. When they’re old enough to know better, you can get stroppy, when they’re smaller it’s more complicated. When the only contact you have with them is the queuing time you don’t know who belongs to whom. I don’t think parents appreciate strangers telling their kids off, and there’s an unwritten rule that it isn’t done, so I usually hold my peace, but it is so tempting to say something. Or bash them with a ski pole. Or their parents for that matter.

On great expectations and disapointment

I am a glassblower.

More accurately a scientific glassblower.

I have just been on a course to learn what it takes to pass the exams which entitle me to become a master-glassblower. Or glassblowing master. Or glassblowing mistress I suppose.

Whatever. The point is that I was there. And now I’m back.

And I’m not verily impressed.

I like learning.

That’s probably not a cool thing to say, but since very little of what I do or wear or am is particularly cool in the popular sense, I shall say it anyway.

I actually really do like learning things. New things, interesting things, exciting things. I’m not that big on learning what it feels like to have your bed collapse under you, or how to break up with people, or just how much it hurts to have people cut you up without properly anethetising you first (yup, all things I learnt at one time or another (or am learning ;))) but those are things you learn because you have to and not because you want to..

I like learning the things I WANT to learn.

And some of the things life wants me to learn and which I wouldn’t’ve thought about learning by myself.

Whatever.

I CHOSE to sit on a train across Germany for 8 hours*, in order to drag the ankle-biting-suitcase across town and up a hill, in order to sleep in a semi-beaten-up-room in semi-beaten-up-halls, in order to be within walking distance of the glass-school, in order to sit in a classroom, in order to be taught things that with be useful to me, and therefore also useful to the people I make Glass Things for.

I CHOSE to willingly pay someone (some oneS) to share their knowledge with me.

What I didn’t choose, is for the teachers to be useless, unprepared or absent. I didn’t choose to learn about irrelevant things that will very likely never benefit me. Ever. I didn’t choose to have to transcribe hours and hours of dull teacher-talk to save him having to type it up and print it out for me. I didn’t choose to be taught/told the same things I learned while becoming a glassblower the first time round.

[Side Note: I am even more incredibly grateful to the-teachers-that-taught-me-the-first-time-round, than I was the first time round ;). It made translating the complicated jumble of chaos I was fed least week marginally easier…]

I didn’t choose to pay for people-more-chaotic-than-I-am to tell me they didn’t have time to go though the-maths-problems-they-wanted-us-to-solve BEFORE writing them on the board. I didn’t choose for metal workers to teach me about gear changes or about how fast cogs turn. I didn’t choose to learn how the 57 varieties of glass-melting ovens are built or exchanged. I think I am beyond needing to learn how to calculate the area of squares and rectangles and even circles for that matter. Despite, or maybe because of, already being capable of working out the hypotenuse of a triangle given the length of both the other sides, I don’t see why it should be skipped because of being ‘far too complicated’. If anything it should be skipped because there’s no need to dwell on things people can already do. Having decided not to skip it after all, I would have been more forgiving if they’d explained it CORRECTLY to the few people who needed the explanation. If they’d also labelled the sides and corners properly I would have been tempted to give them a bonus gold star. I would have also appreciated it if they’d had any understanding of what brackets mean when written in mathematical equations. It is probably better to be momentarily confused by a textbook which uses a different letter for the same thing, than to try and work out why you need both terms in one equation [for anyone wondering what I mean, try this for size:  “a x b x c(h)”   where c is the side that make a square into a cube and is referred to as height in some literature..].

ARGH.

I am a scientific glassblower.

I work with ready-made tubing and a super-snazzy bunsen burner. Or I would if mine was less than 40 years old. Let’s stick with snazzy. (I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard that used by anyone under about 50 and not at all in the last 15 years. Told you I wasn’t all that cool ;))

Anyway. What I mean is I don’t have anything to do with melting-ovens. Or gears. Or cogs.

I admit that it’s interesting to know all these things. I could be thankful for knowing them if I wasn’t so aware that knowing them means I spend time not learning about the things I actually wanted to know. The course is a total of 4 weeks spread over 9 months. Last week was the second week. So far we have learned

  • how to get iron out of rocks and how to recycle it when you don’t need it anymore
  • how to calculate the area of very simple shapes (triangles are way too hard) and the volume of only slightly less simple ones
  • how not to work out the speed of cogs going round and making other cogs turn
  • how not to work out the volume of glass in a wineglass (“the answersheet is 100% right!” “um.. the question said 4 mm on each side… the answers assume 4mm total” “oh..”)
  • the history of glass from 7000 BC to now, including a lot of names of people who did incredible things which unfortunately have nothing to do with scientific apparatus
  • how glass is melted (from scratch), what the ovens look like, how they are replaced, what the advantages of oven X over oven Y are (except if you have to cope with problem A or B in which case oven Z would be better)
  • how not to translate Pascals into deciPascals
  • and gone over some of what we learned at baby-glasblower-school about what glass is made of and what it’s good at

None of which was particularly well taught.

On a positive note, and to stay on the fair side of the truth, we did learn what to do after getting hydrofluoric acid on your skin (No panic, none of us did 🙂 It was just the only really useful thing we learned).

I would have liked to have learned about vacuum. Not vacuum cleaners, but the sort of vacuum chemistry students need in order to carry out experiments with things that explode if they make contact with air. I would have liked to learn about ventiles and taps and the methods of making them vacuum tight. I would have liked to learn about how pressure works, and how to work out how to make Glass Things that withstand 9 Bar pressure without breaking. I would like to know who’s responsible for things if/when they break, and how to protect oneself if They place the blame on one. I would have liked to learn about what the apparatus are used for and how to better advise my customers what’s possible and what’s just fantastical. I would like to know about how to place orders and calculate how much my finished Glass Things should cost. I would like to know about air-conditioning units and how to work out how strong they need to be in order not to gas oneself while working. I would have liked to learn how to handle the reflective silver coating used on/in evacuated Glass Things and the brown coating used to protect the contents of the Glass Things from UV rays. I would have liked to learn about joining metal to glass. I would have liked to have watched a video about how glass-tubing is made (okay so I know a little bit of theory, but we’ve seen so many videos of ovens it would be nice to see one about something relevant ;)). I would like to know about electrodes and glass-glue and making glass frit and Glass-welding and grinding and polishing and …

There are so many things I want to know I won’t continue with this list, because I want to get some sleep tonight.. Also, not having been taught all the things a master glassblower is supposed to know, I don’t know what else there is out there.

More than all the separate things on that list though, I think I would have liked to have teachers who cared about what they taught and about their students. I would have liked them to be prepared for their lessons and to have correct workings and answers to their questions. I would have liked them to know what they were talking about and be able to explain it to the people who don’t. Knowing that the teachers write the exams and that they are likely to be easy since we haven’t done anything hard yet isn’t really adequate compensation. I wasn’t there [just] for the title, I was there for the knowledge.

I had great expectations.

I was disappointed.

I still am disappointed.

I wasn’t sure where to go with my disappointment, and to be honest, I’m still not sure where to go with my disappointment.

I’m working on it.

Slowly.

In the meantime I went skiing. But that will have to wait for a new post.

* actually, I chose to sit on one for 6 hours, the powers-that-be chose to make it longer.

On ski-jumping

I’m learning to jump

🙂

🙂

And by jumping I mean riding over foot high snow ramps with a 5-10 metre glide up..

(Oh yeah, and the 2 foot snowpile on the slopiest part of the slope…)

Didn’t break anything though 🙂

I even got half a second or so of air time on the 5th or 6th attempt 🙂

33

On being better than you think you are…

I skiied down my first black run today. I didn’t know it was black at the time.

It was 4:30 pm. We’d skiied for just over 2 hours on a new (for us) resort. We’d finished skiing on the ‘little lifts’ at the top of the hill/mountain and were on our way back to the car. They were closing the lifts and getting the piste-basher out. It wasn’t dark, but the sun was setting and it was cold.

So.

We skiied down the first bit, which was basically the same slope as we’d been playing on previously but finishing at the other corner.. From this vantage point we could see the hut and the car at the bottom. We were faced with 2 sleep slopes and very little idea which was most likely to be skiable. They both looked steep and scary. It’s a very small ski ‘resort’ with 3 lifts and something like 5km of piste … and there are no signposts. There are also no paper plans/maps with pretty coloured squiggles. There was a cluster of trees between the 2 slopes. I said we should go to the right of the trees, my ski-partner said left. We asked a bloke who was skiing with a small child (maybe 7 years old). He told us right was better, said “follow me” and shot off, the kid going on in front, yelling at his dad to hurry up (and being ignored). I followed him and he showed me where to turn and how to put my ski back on after I fell over and lost one and was patient when I didn’t understand what he was on about. I got to the bottom without falling over too often, and more importantly without breaking anything or having a panic attack 🙂 My ski-partner, not being within earshot of the helpful man, got left behind. We waited for him at the bottom, where he found us celebrating the small boy’s safe arrival at the bottom of the hill. He’d reached the hut, got bored of waiting for his dad, and gone back up on the lift…by himself. And then skiied down again…by himself.

My ski-partner was quite down about not being able to turn as well as he’d like to, and for having fallen over more often than he wanted to talk about and for being slow and pff.. just generally not impressed at purely making it down alive..

We headed back to the car and decided to go to the floodlit ‘easy’ runs we know and love in order to give ourselves the impression of being successful skiiers, capable of getting down hills without falling over. 3 hours later we’d gathered another 20 runs each and he was in much better spirits.

Arriving home, he looked up the plan online. He just text me to say it was a black run. Made it seem a lot less embarrassing not to have found it easy 🙂