Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Back at work today, feeling tired and cranky from lack of sleep after a really fantastic weekend visiting Kathleen in Bern. I need to be better at using these breaks to help me to make positive change in my life, rather than coming back and moping around that everything isn’t as perfect as it could be. Anyway, enough whining- I did buy a nice cover for my bicycle, so now I can officially take it on all the European trains (they don’t require it in the UK). Now I just need to start planning European bike trips! Anyway, I wrote out my thoughts as the trip went along, and the pics are HERE.


Currently in a small, propeller driven puddle jumper, somewhere over Belgium. I’m in a row of one, which is fab, right next to the propeller, which is very big and spinning very fast. Definitely seen too many airplane disaster movies. In further proof that we are not flying in the USA (which is obviously much more dangerous), the flight attendant is standing in the cockpit, with the door wide open, having a lovely chat with the pilot, who is blocking out the rising sun with his outstretched hand. Hmm. Anyway, I flew out of London City, which is an absolute joy. It’s a little microdink airport in the Docklands – zero wait and zero hassle. You don’t even have to show your boarding card – just touch it to the gate, which opens automatically to let you go to security. Getting to the airport should be easy as well, but, this being London, very early on a Saturday morning, that never actually happens. So, I was up at 445. Ugh. And, being slow and generally useless at that hour, I missed the 558 bus. I then did something I thought was very clever, which was to take the next bus the other direction, to Brixton, where I could get the Tube. Except, the Victoria Line wasn’t running. Gack – really too tired to be dealing with this! So, it was onto another bus, to the Tube, to another Tube, to the Docklands Light Railway, and then, miraculously, I was only 20 minutes late to the airport. Anyway, all this excitement for a two night visit to Bern to see Kathleen.

Checking out the landscape below, I think, hmm – it would make a fabulous 700 mile bike ride. Hmm.

Oh yeah, it’s always amusing flying foreign airlines – the little things they do differently. Breakfast was some sort of pink yogurty muesli thing with fruit in it – looked a lot like cat barf, but actually tasted nice and a slightly wooden croissant. And, the woman across from me was allowed to fly with her suitcase sitting on the floor, belted in with the seatbelt. Wow.

Just reading a history of planning in GB – I learned that a house, approximately the size of ours, could be bought for £825 in the 1930s. My new bike cost £900. The deposit for the house was £45. Amazing.

OK, I’m convinced I need a camera again. I’ve been using my phone for years with generally good results, but there are, for example, beautiful patterns in the fog below and I can’t turn my phone on to take a picture.

Asshole behind me keeps sneezing. Is it socially acceptable to smother him?

Hmm, flying up to the Alps you really can see how it looks like a smushed up carpet (that’s a scientific term). Gorgeous with fog and autumn leaves. I want a camera!

Funny thought – we took off out of London’s protective blanket of smog. We land in Bern’s protective blanket of fog. Who’s to say which is better?

Sitting on a bench at a school in Bern now, waiting for Kathleen to finish her volleyball game. I spent several hours just wandering, which I love. Bern is such a beautiful city (pics to follow) and very walkable. Every time I go to a German speaking place, I have to say I really appreciate the sense of order. Things are clean and function well. People get upset when the train is a minute late, whereas in England it is considered officially on time if it is less than five minutes late. I realise there is crime and social problems in the German countries, but there is also an overall sense that things should be “just so”. That can cause problems, in itself, for sure (as evidenced by naughty behaviour of the Germans in the past), and I do very much appreciate, for example, the British wackiness that really lacks here. I don’t at all miss the “chav” or “gangsta” culture. But then, I think England has always been essentially held together by string – it’s always been a big mess, yet somehow it works. It somehow managed to take over most of the world, searching, I’m sure, for better cuisine. I’ve always wondered if I could live in a German country, or if I would miss the British absurdity. London is sort of like New York in that it’s a huge mess – nothing ever works properly, everything is always delayed, everything is expensive. Yet, I miss it when I’m away. It’s probably a good place to be.


Well, today was a bit of a whirlwind!

Anyway, I went to the end of Kathleen’s volleyball game yesterday (as mentioned), where I had definite proof that yes, I am a big homosexual. I walked into this gym full of very fit women in very short shorts, whacking the volleyball over the net, running around, shouting, and hugging each other between each hit. If ever there were a hetero wankfest it was that. And my worry? What would I do if the ball came towards me? Sigh.

We all went, last night, after dinner, down the hill to the river to a volleyball/handball event/party at this sort of dance club in the attic of an old industrial building (reminded me of a converted barn). Fortunately, there were English speakers there, because my Schweiz Deutsch is a bit muy crappo. Anyway, a lot of BSing with various people of sundry nationalities, and I had 4 beers, which is about 3 over my recommended intake. I didn’t get to bed until about 230 and didn’t sleep well because of the alcohol.

Needless to say, this morning was a little rough. But, I managed to straggle out of bed (futon) about 10 and we went off for fantastic brunch in a converted old house. It was a buffet, and the thing about me and buffets is that I tend to eat the whole buffet. Moo. So, suitably blobular, we wandered back to Kathleen and Nik’s, via the supermarket at the train station (the only one open in central Bern on Sunday, as they seem to roll up the sidewalks).

I then ran off about 1/100th of bunch along the river, and after, the weather having cleared from morning fog, Kathleen and I took the tram and the funicular up to the top of a 1000 or so foot tall hill at the edge of the city. The views were absolutely magnificent, off towards the Alps and back towards Bern, and, it being late afternoon/early evening and autumn, the sun was low, the colours all shades of red and gold, and the whole thing was, well, pretty damn amazing. I so wish we had something like this in London – I think that if David and I ever leave London, it’s going to be because of this. I’ve come to realize that I really do need my nature – so does David, even move – and we just don’t get it in SE England.


Anyway, we were very brave and climbed to the top of a 70 or so foot tall tower with a see-through metal mesh floor. I had to walk around like a little old lady, clinging desperately to the railings. Then it was back to Nik & Kathleen’s for pumpkin soup (yum) and fab bread, salmon and a surely no-fat cream and sugar and raspberry dessert. I most certainly can’t complain!

Bed early tonight because OMG am I exhausted, and up at 645 tomorrow.


I’m killing time today before heading to the airport. I was up with Kathleen & Nik at 645 and went for a misty, early morning run along the Aare. I wandered some after that, did a short gym workout and purchased a bike cover for taking my bike on European trains. They don’t sell them in the UK, from what I have found, because they aren’t required on British trains.

I took the train then down to meet Kathleen for lunch (sauerkraut and meat – yum!) and have been wandering the past hour in the hills above the town. There are marked trails everywhere, forests, farms and entirely unmarked roads, weaving throughout. Must be a nightmare to find anything in a car!

I’m now sitting atop a hill, overlooking cowfields (and smelling of cowshit). Below is an interesting juxtaposition of civilisation and nature. Gumligen (with two little doodahs over the u), a distant suburb of Bern, fades away into cowfields and forests, behind which, as a jagged white wall, are the peaks of the Alps. Every now and then, a tram or train toodles across the valley, and the sounds are an odd mix of the familiar urban din, church bells (there are a lot of church bells here), cow bells (a lot of those too) and some sort of crickety things. I like Switzerland – it’s cool!

Bern Airport is, hands down, the best airport experience I’ve ever had. Set amongst cowfields at the edge of Bern, it has one terminal, one checkin, one security and one gate. It took approximately ten minutes from entering the building to arriving at the gate. The plane took approximately five minutes to load (a bit leisurely, perhaps, given that there were only about ten people), and then, as the only plane taking off at that particular time, we drove out onto the runway, drove to the end, pulled a U-ey and then seriously hauled ass, taking off in about 64 feet. Of course, the slight down side about being in a little puddle jumper when there is weather moving in is that it bounces about like a cork. Ugh.

Funny moment on the plane – the door to the toilet was stuck, so the flight attendant pulled out a – wait for it – Swiss Army Knife and pried it open. And now she’s up there chatting again with the pilots – cockpit door wide open. If ever there was a demonstration that all the drama about flying is totally, 100% unnecessary, this flight is it!

Oh, and finally, ham for victory!

1 comment:

Jan Blawat said...

To get an umlaut, type option u, then u. Güm... Sorry, typographers just know these things. Keyboard shortcuts for accents work in most programs.

Nice trip, I always appreciate your Wilton, CA observations of the rest of the world.