On swimming in the sun

Once or twice a week I go swimming with a friend.

We’ve just started going to the pool near her house instead of the one near mine.

Today, for the first time, I discovered it has an outdoor pool attached.

It was sunny, and scarily warm, so I went out for the first outdoor swim in aaaaaages!! The water was obviously colder than in the indoor pool, but the air was soooo much nicer to breathe – makes swimming that much easier πŸ™‚

I only swam 2 rounds, because my swimming buddy was inside waiting for me (she’s recovering from being ill and doesn’t want to risk getting ill again).

Hopefully it will be sunny again next week πŸ™‚

On bikes, breadbuns and guilty conciences

Once upon a time there was a little girl. She learned to ride a bike (slowly) and when she grew up she still liked cycling.

That little girl was me.

Now I’m a whole lot older, even if not that much bigger.

When I started work, I lived in a house half an hour’s walk away from the workshop. Someone told me about the annual bike-sale in the town; I went, saw and conquered and came away with the most amazing bike ever.

Anyway.

That’s all history.

My bike was stolen in June last year.

I was not amused.

I moped and refused to think about getting a replacement.

A long while later, I was asked if I cycled; “I used to..” I said, and told him the sad tale.

Shortly afterwards, [practically] on my birthday, I received an answerphone message offering me a bike. She’d bought one recently and got too ill to ride it anymore. She had wanted to donate it to the church jumble sale, but since she’d heard mine had been stolen, she felt it would be more sensible to give it to me instead.

Who turns down that kind of offer??

After dropping my parents and brother at the airport, I went to fetch it and brought it home.

And felt incredibly guilty.

I just couldn’t manage to be as grateful as I knew I ought to be.

It’s not that I usually spend my time looking in horses mouths, but this horse had an attractive tongue..

I’d just been given an almost brand-new bike…

…and I didn’t like it.

The reason?

It was the sort of bike that stops if you pedal backwards.

Other than that it was pretty cool.

But it was enough for me not to want it. That and the knowledge that somewhere out there, someone was still happily riding MY bike.

It sat, or ‘stood’ if you’re a fussy German person, in my hall since then. I kept meaning to take it out for a ride and to get myself used to the stoopid brake-system, but I never got round to it. It was too icy, too cold, too windy, too wet, too dark, there was too much snow, I was too tired, I had to go out soon, I’d just got back and it was late… etc etc etc.

The days turned to weeks, the weeks turned to months, and the months were threatening to turn into a year. The more I didn’t ride it, the more I didn’t want to and the more guilty I felt about my ungratefulness.

Then, last week, one of my Hauskreis ladies asked us what we knew about the bike-exchange. We all emparted out assorted wisdom on her, and asked her why she wanted to know. Turns out her bike had just been written off, and she was on the lookout for a new one…

… one with backward-pedalling brakes.

Wow – seems people actually WANT the things.. I was astounded

As soon as I could speak, I immediately offered her mine and they all stared at me as if I’d turned into a buffalo.

I explained and they stopped staring and we arranged for her to come over on Saturday (with breakfast) and look at it, and maybe/probably pick it up. Then we would go to the Bike-Exchange and choose a bike for me.

And that’s what we did. I spent the morning tidying my house so they could have breakfast with me. When they came they brought breadbuns, but had already eaten and wanted to get on with their day. I put the buns onto the freshly washed sideboard and wheeled the bike out for inspection. She loved it and it was duly packed into the car.

I followed it in and we were off to the bike-exchange.

3 drizzly hours later I was the proud, if slightly soggy, owner of a ‘new’ bike.

The best part of it was that the pedals were there for pedalling and not for braking πŸ™‚

On what I learnt at circus school today

  • Keeping a group of seven 7-12 year old boys together for 2 hours while changing rooms 12 times (circuit training) is a challenge.
  • Keeping your cool even more so πŸ˜‰
  • They are amazingly willing to please, as long as you tell them EXACTLY what you want them to do and why… Ok, so they still don’t always do it, but they’re a whole lot better than if you think they’ll figure it out by themselves (“When this training session is over, I want you ALL to wait for me at this door *points*, so that we can all go to room x – that’s the room next to the kitchen – in one group. If you run off, I’ll have to waste time coming to find you, and then we won’t be able to start on time and that means you get less time juggling/jumping/balancing/etc.” -> “this door?” “where’s the kitchen?” “Soandso’s missing” “hey! come back, you’re supposed to wait for the rest of us!” :)). I only worked this out 20 minutes before the end of the session. I was fed up of chasing them in 7 directions, round them up and herding them back to where they where supposed to be so I had a small headfit told them it wasn’t working and explained what I expected of them when we left the next room.
  • I’m much more likely to cheer on the ones who are struggling, than applaud the ones who can do it first time round (may have to work on that..)
  • Girls are more likely to make fun of my accent.
  • I still can’t juggle.
  • Or use a microphone properly – but I’m learning πŸ™‚
  • But I CAN still twizzle sticks in the air and catch them again (I think they’re called devil sticks? not sure)
  • AND whizz poi about πŸ™‚
  • I can’t follow instructions (and there I was, thinking I was such a great leader-by-example ;)). My group and I had a ‘magic lesson’ involving a piece of rope and the instruction to “do EXACTLY what the magician said/did”… I only figured out why I was stranging myself instead of having the ropes fall off me when he explained it to me. The second or third time.
  • I can survive standing in front of 130 odd kids leading the actions from the action-songs (even if I don’t know the words or half the actions ;)).
  • I can also survive being one of the leading roles in a mini-theatre..
  • My phone can’t play Youtube videos.
  • Making sure 2 tables of 6 small people are kept fed and watered is a lot of work. The benefits are the extra icecream you get to eat πŸ˜‰

So. I think that’s it for the day. I’ll keep you posted.

On children and the effect they have on one’s ears

Way back when I was small, my grandparents used to take us (my siblings and me) on holiday for a week in summer. When my folks arrived to pick us up, the grandparents could almost be guaranteed to say: “rather a week than a fortnight” and “we’ll think we’ve gone deaf”. As a kid I didn’t really get what they meant. I mean, we thought we’d had a great holiday, and they agreed it’d been loads of fun.

I’m currently volenteering at a circus workshop for kid’s..

There are something like 130 5 to 13 yr olds and man are they LOUD!!

They’re also here for a week..

Obviously it’s not Friday yet, but when it IS.. I have a feeling I will have a better understanding of both sayings!

Skiing, skiing, more skiing and the perils of saunas and after-skiing-parties

Yes.

I realise this post is months overdue. Naja, I suppose weeks is more accurate, but for some parts it’s enough weeks to be more than a month…

***

I can’t ski without hobbling about for days afterwards.

I asked my teacher back in February how long it takes to train your muscles to cope with walking after skiing. He said if I keep it up (ski every weekend) I’d be okay by about June.

Thanks buddy.

It’s not even as if it’s just my legs either. I would understand if it was. I mean, I ski with my legs.. Why my ribs, shoulders, bum, arms and hands of all things should join in the hurting party beats me.

***

I went skiing with D (my Ski-partner) and some of the luffly peeps from my Hauskreis on the 23rd Feb – another brilliant day πŸ™‚ – practised jumping some more, this time over much bigger ramps, and got more (occasionally unexpected) airtime. In case anyone’s interested, I’m getting better at it. By jumping I obviously still mean riding over big lumps of snow, Only these lumps were bigger and steeper and scarier. And sometimes there were several in a row. I only fell over a couple of times, and 2 of those were while getting off the lifts πŸ˜‰ We still haven’t quite got the hang of that yet.. But we’ll get there :).

I woke up more crippled (muscle ache due to skiing) than after any other ski-day this year.

The weekend after that I was ill, which was incredibly annoying, because the weather was beautiful, and cold enough for the snow to stay where it was.

Once I’d recovered, the snow was gone. Or at least too melted to ski on.

***

On the weekend of the 8th – 10th March I went as part of a group of 12 to some ‘real’ mountains – the Bavarian alps – for a couple more days of craziness πŸ™‚ Some of the crowd hadn’t ever skiied before, others had been once (last year), D and I had been practising lots, and the others were almost professionals ;). My teacher came too, which was very cool, even though he was too busy with the beginners to teach me much until the second day. A couple of snowboarders tagged along for the ride, but I didn’t see much of them over the weekend.

I practised jumping, and teaching, and skiing on one foot, and skiing backwards, and skiing with ‘bigfoots’ (which are very short, very fat skis, and pretty scary, but also good fun),Β  and skiing on ‘Neuschnee’ (virgin snow? the deep stuff no one’s prepared or skiied on yet) and riding on chair lifts.

= more brilliant days πŸ™‚

***

We were staying in chalets – very swish, makes the whole thing incredibly refined – with a sauna in the cellar. I’m not a big sauna-fan, but occasionally I give in to peer pressure πŸ˜‰ There was only one other girl (F) and she didn’t want to go by herself. Who am I to spoil her evening?? So I joined her and 5 or 6 of the others for an evening of being baked alive.

After roasting for 15 minutes or until golden brown (go with the 15 minutes, I don’t do brown, golden or otherwise, I go from white to red and back to white ;)) one is supposed to shower with cold water. That seemed like a very silly idea, but everyone was agreed it was the thing to do, and since I was doing the done thing, I figured I could at least try it out. I’m not thrilled at the idea of cold showers at the best of times, and after figuring out that the shower was directly in front of the sauna’s glass door I was even less taken by the idea. There’s something incredibly offputting about showering in full view of a group of guys you can neither see nor hear. While the others laughed at us, F and I made extensive plans for leaving the oven and showering without exposing ourselves: I’d leave the oven first, she’d follow directly behind me, one of us would hold a spare towel over the glass in the door while the other showered. Then we’d change roles. Only once we’d both finished, would we let the others out of the oven. They’d got in after us, so they were due a few minutes longer anyway. A perfect plan.

I’m not sure quite what it is about perfect plans that make them entirely useless and more open to sabotage than any other sort of plan, but there it is..

The door wasn’t very willing to be opened, despite me pushing as hard as possible. Admittedly, ‘as hard as possible’ wasn’t very hard, but what do you expect when I’m dizzy from standing up after spending 15 mins sitting in a box of 70 degree hot steam, and while holding my towel with the other hand? Honestly. Anyway, as unwilling to open as it had been seconds before, when it finally did agree to open, it sprung outwards, with me heading out faster than could be considered genteel. The floor outside, having been completely soaked by the previous showerers, was still wet. I slipped and went flying and landed on my back, losing my towel and stubbing my toe* on/under the wooden bathmat a couple of metres further into the room in the process.

YEAH.

That was exactly how I’d always wanted to get out of a sauna…

…not.

F followed me out and after we’d mopped up the blood, the rest of the plan went exaxctly as we’d planned it to.

The cold shower didn’t seem cold, and because we’re very strange people we went back for more baking once we’d stopped steaming and my head had stopped spinning.

We went out to look at the stars while trying to cool off the second time.

I didn’t even complain much when one of the guys trod on my stubbed toe and said it was my fault for putting my foot where he wanted to stand.

***

After the second full day of skiing, because it was a ‘proper’ (ish) ski-resort, we didn’t go inside to fall asleep with a hot chocolate and a cake like usual, we chose to jump about like mad things while someone sang, very loudly, with a microphone and a back-up CD but without knowing all the words. The someone wasn’t one of us, although I suppose I ought to admit we helped out… It’s rather amazing to dance about in a group of 12 people (amongst another 2 hundred or so) who are all high on mountain air and adrenalin and sing silly songs together, loudly, without anyone minding. Besides the singing there was tea, and gluehwein, and chocolate, and salami, and a lot of laughter.

At some point in the proceedings, it was decided that it would be remarkably cool to learn to spin people round 360 degrees and carry on dancing. I was ‘elected’ to be the willing victim (don’t ask why, I’m not sure either. I didn’t have any part in the discussion leading up to the decision and I think ‘willing’ is a little different, but it is true that I didn’t actually object very much).

The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air…

..until I wasn’t..

…and was lying on the ground instead.

Or more accurately, half on the ground.

The spinner had very kindly thrown himself underneath the other half of me, so I hadn’t actually broken anything. I also hadn’t been dropped on my head, which is apparently what most of the onlookers thought was going to happen halfway through.

His wrist and my elbow were bandaged up by the helpful fireman we’d brought with us, and once we’d driven back to the chalet, I was allowed (or forced, depending on how you look at these things) to lie on my back and rest while everyone else took it in turns to pack and tidy up or bring me grapes and sympathy ;).

In all, it was a great weekend, and I’m still mourning the end of the ski-season πŸ™

And as I said, I can’t ski without hobbling about for days afterwards…

 

*the kind of stubbing, which breaks the nail and makes a mess of the floor…

On sleepovers

*sings*

There were 3 [already] in the bed and the fourth one said; “stuff that for a laugh, I’m going to sleep on the sofa”

I was going to swap with her, but she wouldn’t let me. I had quite a guilty conscience until this morning when I realised she was the only one for the 4 of us who’d got anything like enough sleep…

On dancing with my eyes shut

For some reason I can dance better with my eyes shut.

I’m going to assume it’s because when they’re open, they fully occupy my brain with all the visual imput, too selfish or attention-seeking to let my hands and/or feet join in. Once I close them, I’m much more aware of what it is my dance partner’s hands are telling me to do, and I’m much more able to follow his lead. He is also forced to lead better/more accurately, because I can’t see what is likely to happen next and position myself correctly. I am competely dependent on his guidance and don’t(/can’t) compensate for his mistakes πŸ˜‰ It involves a fair bit of trust, but you kind of have to trust the people you dance with anyway. I also find I don’t have to think so much – my feet go where they’re supposed to by themselves and leave me free to enjoy myself πŸ™‚

Today I kept them closed almost all the way through the evening and afterwards the guys all thanked me and told me it was good leading-training πŸ™‚

For all of you who don’t know: I’m learning to dance Forro which is a very cool brazilian partner dance. If you’ve never heard of it, look it up, and if there’s a club near you offering taster-sessions or parties, go to one. Even if you’ve never really liked dancing until now. It’s a lot less formal than most partner dances, and a lot easier to start. You can get involved with intricacies later. You also don’t need to take a partner with you because you all swap around and dance with everyone.

Anyway. I’ve been dancing at the weekly Forro-parties for almost a year now, on and off, and have recently started proper lessons. Today was lesson day. I almost didn’t go, but I’m glad I did πŸ™‚

On ski-jumping

I’m learning to jump

πŸ™‚

πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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

33

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 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

On walking in the snow

If it’s snowing when you want to go home, remember to put your ‘real’ shoes back on before leaving the dance hall.

Especially if your dancing shoes have (on-purpose) holes in them.

Even more especially if you’re wearing floor-length trousers.

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.

Skiing – part 2 – skiing

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

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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…