Monday, 26 March 2001

Old News - Newsletter March 2001

Hi Everyone

We have found a place to stay, in Kilburn, and will be moving on Thursday! What a relief. Now I just have to pack, move, unpack and find a new job. No worries!

Anyway, let me tell you about Switzerland before I forget. My Aunt‘s boyfriend has an apartment in a tiny resort in the Swiss Alps called Alpes de Chaux. My Mom had arranged to go there with Aunt for 6 weeks from the beginning of March, and invited me to join them for a bit. So on Monday the 5th March I caught a plane to Geneva and then made my way by train, tram and taxi to their place. An interesting trip, and the first solo navigation I done in years. I got there with no problems, despite having forgotten £700 worth of currency at home.

The apartment in Alpes de Chaux is very nice. One bedroom, open-plan kitchen / lounge and a bathroom. Mom and I slept on sleeper couches in the lounge, with sweeping views of the valley and the mountains opposite. Unfortunately you really need a car to get around, as it is an hours walk from the nearest station – so we did a lot of walking! Mom had been taking skiing lessons with the object of being able to ski with me, and the next morning we got up early to hit the slopes. Here we encountered a couple of snags:
1. Mom had learned on 1m skis, and the shortest they hire locally is 1.5m.
2. Mom had never been up the local slopes, which make her nursery slopes look flat.
3. Mom had a horrible cold.

So we get to the top of the draglift and Mom is terrified, can’t turn, and is feeling weak as a kitten. After half an hour of picking her out of the snow she and I took off our skis and walked down. She went to lie down, and Aunt and I skied a bit. Aunt’s a pretty good skier, and we did the run a few times, then met up with my Mom again. Mom’s nerve was a bit shattered, so we hired blades (v. short light skis) and went to play on a flattish bit of slope for the afternoon to get her nerve back.

The rest of the week we took it very easy, as a thaw set in and the slopes nearby were nasty. Plus Mom was ill, Aunt not keen to ski, and I was lazy. So we went to Montreux and looked around a castle, did some hiking and read a lot.

Mountin Man arrived late on Sat 10th, my birthday. We all had a lovely fondue, and turned in. (I’d hired another studio apartment nearby to have some privacy, and after he left on Monday Mom shared it with me for the rest of the week, as Uncle was arriving and we wanted to give Aunt some space.) On the Sunday Mountin Man and I skied to a village called Bretaye, and Mom and Aunt came via foot and tram. As this village is a bit higher the slopes were good, and Mountin Man and I did every run in the area – most of which were red – while Mom practised on the nursery slope! The light was horrid, and it rained most of the afternoon, so I think we must be pretty good skiers now. Mountin Man is much better than I am though, as not being to see doesn’t upset him. We skied back to our resort at the end of the day, and I spent most of the time on my face. The runs back were all South facing, and very melted, so you had to skim from patch to patch and turn on a penny between grass and gravel. Not my strong point and I haven’t fallen that much since I learned to ski!

On Monday the weather was still bad, and I was exhausted. Mountin Man whizzed up the slopes while I had a late morning, and then he joined the rest of us for lunch before heading home. As he left it began to snow, and didn’t stop until the next afternoon!

On the Tuesday afternoon I dragged Mom kicking and screaming back up the run. We’d managed to find short skis at the local shop, and the snow was perfect. There is a section of the run that is wide and easy, with a draglift coming back up it, and we practised there. I got her to follow me down about 6 times, then we walked back home for a G&T. The next day we came down about 10 times, and got a bit faster. The day after that she was overtaking me and later I got her down a steep narrow section of the run, and the next day we did the entire blue run! She did really well, only wiping out a couple of times (and discovering what it is like to dive face first into the off-piste. ‘Face-plant’ as we call it). I was very impressed, as it is not an easy run for a beginner!

We spent my last day hiking across the valley, and I navigated back last Monday. It was wonderful to spend so much time with my Mom!

Since then I have been back at ABB. They go live today or tomorrow, so I am trouble-shooting 3 days a week. Luckily they have finally found someone to take over my section, so I will not be coming back after Wednesday. Mountin Man and I spent last week flat-hunting, and I spent most of Friday looking at flats. The one I chose is very close to Kilburn tube, and a basement flat. For those back home – this means the flat is sort of sunk down a few steps below street level. I think this is a good thing, as every other place I looked at involved 3 flights of winding stairs! It is a one-bedroom, with a big lounge, decent kitchen and nice bathroom. And main selling point is – it has access to the garden! Behind the building is a huge garden – nothing fancy, but a place we can sit in the sun and braai. I have really missed having a place to get outside.

On Friday night I was celebrating, and got through nearly 2 bottles of wine. S came down from Aberdeen for the weekend, and he and Mountin Man went out to meet B etc. I woke up with a horrible hangover, and Mountin Man and S got home in the afternoon feeling the same, so we lay around and watched videos. That night we went to dinner with T and A, and Mountin Man and S went out clubbing with B and J etc afterwards. Then on Sunday we all went for a pub lunch… A weekend of excess and for once I admit it. L got home from Nepal last night – sounds like she had a great time!

This coming week is going to be a blur of packing and moving.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, 1 March 2001

Old News - Newsletter March 2001

Hi all

Spring is springing over here at last. Trees are starting to blossom, bulbs are coming up and I have begun getting hayfever already. It is still light when I leave work in the evening, and the sun is actually up when I arrive in the morning. In spite of this we are in the middle of the usual February cold snap – snow has swept most the country and is forecast here later today. It is going well below freezing at night, and we are all moaning about it in the traditional fashion.

I have 3 days left at work, and am going flat out trying and finish bits and pieces. The project is very close to deadline now, and all the developers are extremely stressed. I did a demo this morning that went well, so I am slacking off a little this afternoon. I am going to spend the next couple of days documenting, as the person who takes over from me is going to have a nightmare. My section has been worked on by 5 people, all with different styles. And nothing has ever been written down, so trying to take over is not much fun! They did ask me to extend my contract, but they only asked last week, which is rather short notice. I had already booked my Switzerland trip, and there is the house-hunting problem too. I have offered to come in part-time after Switzerland, but haven’t had any feedback on that. If they take me up on it I am going to boost my rate through the ceiling!

I haven’t been up to much as I’m working very hard in Farnham in the week, and on the weekends I am very tired and don’t feel doing anything! The weekend before last all my housemates were away, and I spent it sleeping and watching videos.

This past weekend I got home at 8 just as my housemates were going out to dinner, and I decided to skip that and relax at home instead. On the Saturday I started touching up the paintwork in the flat – we are taking no chances on not getting our deposit back! I was running around removing posters and picture-hooks, then filling holes and painting them. Then because we can’t quite match the existing paint colour I have to roller the whole wall with a thinned layer of the new paint to camouflage the patched bits! I’ve done the walls in my bedroom that don’t have heavy furniture against them, and I’ll do the others when Mountain Man is here to help. On Saturday night we went to T’s brother's housewarming. It was very pleasant, and at midnight we were standing outside braaing in the snow! Different. We got home at 2am, and then on Sunday got up early and went out for a pub lunch with James, Budge and Whale, and a lot of people I didn’t quite get introduced to. I left the pub at 3:30 to run errands and do my ironing and packing for the week, and was asleep by 7 – I was completely knackered! The rest of the house got home at 11 – a very long (and mostly liquid by the sound of it) lunch! They then proceeded to play classical music at thunderous volume, and I blessed the soul that invented earplugs as I shut out the racket and drifted back into dreamland.

Some of my workmates have a really grungy digs in Farnham, and they have started having me over for dinner once a week. It reminds me a lot of when I was a student, and most of my friends lived in dodgey digs! Anyway, it’s a pleasant change from sitting alone in the B&B, and after the third glass of wine I don’t notice how bad the place is. Last week I could barely walk home, so with any luck I will take it easy tonight! I joined a mob of work people at the pub after work last night, and when I got to my B&B at about midnight I found they’d turned off all the lights, including the ones outside. It took me ages to get the door unlocked (I’d only had 3 pints, so shush) as I had to feel for the keyhole and then try and get the key in the right way up. Then I groped my way through the hallway and up the stairs, terrified of knocking over one of the many knick-knacks the place is filled with. I couldn’t find any light switches, and gingerly made my way to my room, praying it was the right one! I shall have to keep my wits about me tonight in case they do it again!

Mountain Man gets home on Sunday, and I am really looking forward to having him back. It’s been a long 3 weeks without him! Then I fly out first thing on Monday. I am really looking forward to it! My Mom called me last Sunday, and she is getting the hang of skiing, and having a great time. My last skiing trip was very intense, with the whole group determined to ski as far and as long as possible every day, with just a quick break for a teetotal lunch. I’m pretty sure that this trip will far more laid back, with plenty of gluwein at lunch, and leisurely runs afterward! We will probably do other stuff too, as the others are there for at least 6 weeks and so can focus on more than just skiing. It should be good fun!

That’s about it from me!