Monday, January 30, 2006

Terri's Big Ski Adventure - Part 3

This is the final installment, I promise... but I should warn you it's a long one!
[Part 2 is here.]
[Part 1 is here.]

Wednesday morning 18th Jan:

I awoke this morning to the gentle sound of heavy artillery fire just outside our chalet. I believe the first words out of my mouth as I sat bolt upright in bed were, "Holy Crap!!"

We had a lot of snow last night. The showers that started yesterday continued overnight and today you can't tell the make and model of parked cars because they're half-buried. No blue sky today - we can't see the other side of the valley through the falling snow.

Oh, you're wondering about the artillery fire?
Well apparently they use some sort of canon to explode bombs at certain spots on the mountains to shake up the loose snow in order to cause controlled avalanches so they don't have to worry about big unexpected ones burying their clientele later. [This is hearsay, don't know how accurate this info is, but it makes sense.] I just wish there was a quieter way of doing this. Mind you, it makes a great alarm clock if you want to wake up at 7am thinking you're in the middle of a war zone.

Wednesday afternoon:
Two breakthroughs!!

First, I was persuaded to strap up my knee, get back on skis and attempt the nursery slopes again, with Hubby at my side. The first run was truly terrifying - only the last vestiges of my pride and stubbornness got me down. But I made it, albeit slowly, and then I went down again. And again. And again. Sans drama :-)
It was hard going though, so I chose to rest awhile and Hubby went off to the bigger slope which he enjoyed so much yesterday. Eventually I got tired of resting, so I pulled myself towards myself and tackled my little slope again - this time alone.
It was nice and quiet - just me and a ski instructor with his ten 5-year-old students. [Unlike me, the little brats were fearless - pfft!] But by the end of a few more solo runs I was actually skiing more than stopping. Go Terri!!!

After lunch I went down again with Hubby, lost control near the bottom and landed in a heap, but I was OK apart from pulling a muscle in my arm in my attempts to get up, whereupon I decided it was enough for one day. Well at least now I know my right arm can't support my full body weight. Ya live 'n learn, eh?

Breakthrough #2 is totally unrelated.
My trusty old hiking boots split open across the sole (explaining all the wet squelching I experienced during my walk yesterday) so Hubby has not only consented to me purchasing a new pair of boots for myself, but he's coming with me too. Shopping, yay!!

Wednesday night:
Am pissed as coot. Been playing 'coinage' with 3 Dutch guys in the Yeti Bar. Came back to chalet for supper. Got snow boots this afternoon :-) Too pissed to limp home so... step - ow - step - ow... Yep, knee not so good. Someone is singing "Liewe Heksie"* downstairs. Suspect it's gonna be a long night..!

*For non-South Africans, this is the theme song from a children's program on TV from about 20 years ago. You kind of had to be there ;-)

Thursday afternoon:
I am sipping hot chocolate on top of the world!

This morning I woke up to blue skies & sunshine. No bombs - it stopped snowing last night. The snow is melting into rivulets running down the steep roads, but believe me, there's still plenty around; drifts are piled as high as my head in some places, next to the road, all fluffy and white and clean. It's hard to believe this place gets green in summer. I put my skis on this morning & made a very poor attempt at the nursery slope to warm up, but I ran over 3 people coming off the travellator. They had got off it and then just stopped, and with all the ice I could neither stop nor turn to avoid them. I think I am officially the world's worst skier. After a few choice words were exchanged I lost my sense of humor so swapped my ski's for my camera and am now much happier :-)

I wasn't allowed on the ski lift with my friends because I didn't have skis on, but I was able to take another one and have found myself at a pub at the very top of the mountains. The view is breathtaking, the hot chocolate divine and the company (me), quite pleasant.
It's warm today - I am wearing my ski suit but no gloves... at least while I'm not in the shade at which point it seems the temperature suddenly plummets to sub-zero. Maybe the sun feels so warm because we're so much closer to it here at the top of the world.
Jagged mountains give way to steep, smooth slopes and pine trees. Mountainsides are criss-crossed with fresh ski tracks. It is so isolated and unspoilt here that it is easy to forget that reality continues somewhere in the world. The only sounds that break the icy silence are the muted conversations, mostly in French, of my fellow diners, and the low hum of the ski lift. Although the thud of club music too is echoing over from somewhere. It seems really out of place here.

Friday afternoon:
Woo Hoo, I can ski!!!
I am officially no longer the worst skier in the world!

[Whoa! A minute ago I was sitting on our balcony in blazing sunshine, then in about 20 seconds flat the sun sank below the rim of the mountain opposite and suddenly it's freezing here - I'm going inside!]

OK back to the important stuff.
I can ski!!!
Hubby persuaded me to get my very own Ski Instructor today. Jean-Luc, the gorgeous 6ft blonde Frenchman was busy [OK, he's a figment of my imagination ;-)] so instead I spent an hour on the slopes with a very experienced, English-speaking (sort-of) woman instructor. Instructress? Whatever.
Under her patient tutelage I learnt not only to ski forwards, but also to stop and to turn, which it turns out are the really important bits.
I actually had fun this time, and tomorrow she is taking me off the nursery slopes.
Right now, though, I am just tired. We went out to supper last night at the local pizzeria for a farewell dinner for C and W (our broken collarbone victim), who left today courtesy of their insurance company.

Lunch today was Tartiflette, an addictive potato dish, enjoyed with the whole group at the Restaurant On Top Of The World which I discovered yesterday. It was another stunning clear day and really warm in the sun. Hubby and I came back down on the ski lifts while the others opted to ski & snowboard down. I'm not quite that brave yet!

Saturday evening:
We're on the bus again, picking up more passengers in the neighbouring resort of St Jean d'Arves.
Goodbye beautiful Alps, snow-covered slopes and icy clean air!

Last night we attempted to finish all the beer we bought in St Malo a week ago, resulting in headaches and frayed nerves all round this morning while we were trying to finish packing and clean the chalet by the deadline of 10am. Check-out was a nightmare. It was one of the rare occasions that Hubby lost his temper, in a row with a snotty receptionist about a broken keyring. He won. There are not many people in the world who will win an argument with my husband in full wrath.
That sorted, we stowed our luggage in a room above the reception area since our bus was only coming to fetch us late in the afternoon. [This was against their policy, but they made an exception, no doubt wanting to avoid another tongue-lashing by my beloved.]
Outside it was chaos, with busloads of people checking out to leave and yet yet others just arriving; French, Dutch, German and the occasional English tourist. J and I opted to take the navette into the village, carrying the bags containing spare boots and bunches of other stuff, while the rest of the clan skied / snowboarded down.
Bad choice.
Turns out the navette doesn't run on Saturdays because it's 'changeover day', when the new batch of visitors arrive to replace those leaving. So we trudged down the hill, stopping to rest our weary arms every ten minutes or so. We arrived at our usual spot - the restaurant with the wooden deck on the nursery slopes - just in time to meet up with the others for lunch. They had already staked claim on a good spot and were relaxing in the warm sunshine.

And then it was time for my second ski lesson.
I warmed up with a couple of runs on the nursery slope so I felt confident, and then my instructor took me to a ski lift that would take us up to the easiest of the 'green' runs. ( There are different 'levels' of slopes, green being the easiest, then blue, red and finally black.)

On the way to the ski lift, I got away from myself... and the instructor... and suddenly found myself barrelling along at a stupidly rapid rate of knots, and all I could hear over the whistling of the air past my ears and the screaming panic in my head, was her voice echoing behind me, "Lean forwaaard...!"
So I did.
And I picked up even more speed.
And I thought "OmigodI'mGoingToDie!".
And then I realised that in leaning forward I had actually regained a little control and was eventually able to slow down and bring myself to a halt without falling over, by heading to the slight embankment along the side of the slope.
And yes, there was a bit of exhileration mixed in with the panic and shakes that followed.

And then we got to the lift and I was pulled up, up, up.
And then... I had to come down again.
On skis.
Um, ja, well, that didn't quite work out as planned... or rather, as hoped.
It was steep. Very steep. And very slippery. And really, really scary.

This is where I am supposed to say that I overcame my fear and conquered the mountain, but I don't like to lie. The truth is I fell over - only once, thank goodness - and my instructor ended up having to literally hold my hand all the way down. I wouldn't let go of her out of sheer terror. At the steepest part she was actually skiing backwards while holding both my hands. The string of 7-year-olds that came whizzing past without a care in the world did nothing for my self-esteem, I gotta tellya.

Can you all say "wuss"???!
My ski instructor actually admitted I was the worst student she'd ever had.

After what seemed like an eternity the lesson was over and the skiing was done. When I thanked my instructor for her patience, she replied, "It's my job," and then skied off without a backward glance. [Probably a good thing since in my experience glancing backwards while skiing forwards can only end in disaster.]

I returned my rented equipment and trundled back to the restaurant for a final thirst-quencher. The waiter - who we had tipped reasonably well all week because he deserved it - said thank you to us for being so nice, and brought us a round of free drinks: a local liqueur made from herbs, called Genepe. I have to wonder how come Hubby and I always seem to be on the receiving end of local drinks on the house when we travel - or does this happen to everyone? It was quite strong, but tasty - exactly what I needed after my ordeal!

We then started the long trek up the hill to find our luggage and meet the bus. Y'know, I've often said that in life, timing is everything. Halfway up we turned around to see our bus coming up the road behind us. Our charming driver recognised us and gave us a lift to the top - Yay!!! It probably would've been quicker to walk in the end because as we rounded one of the tight bends we met another coach coming the other way. The streets of Saint Sorlins d'Arves are barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other, never mind great big coaches, so it took a great deal of maneouvering and muttering about woman drivers before we finally made it to the top. But we did, and we didn't have to walk (or in my case, hobble).

And now we're on the long, twisty journey back down the cliff-hugging slopes in the dark. A pitch black sky is studded with twinkling stars; ice particles on the snow sparkle like diamonds, bringing the stark landscape to life as if millions of tiny fairies are dancing on the white drifts.

Sunday morning:
After a good night's sleep on the bus [Handy Hint: Always choose the bottom bunk - they're closer to the heaters!], we stopped in Caen for breakfast around 7am. It was still dark, very cold and quite misty. The streets were almost empty. Since the first one was a haze of cigarette smoke, and most of our party are non-smokers, we opted to find an alternative to the first (and most obvious) choice of brasseries near the bus station. Instead, we went into the second place that we found open. We should have read the glowing red sign on the window of the place we went into, but we were all still half asleep. It said "After Brasserie". Our wickedly strong coffee that had probably been brewing all night, and not-so-fresh croissants were served by a beautifully coiffed lady-boy. The four men at a table in the far corner, past the pinball machine, were drinking beer. OK it was 7:30 in the morning but I reasoned they had probably just finished working a night shift. Or something. The two men at the counter were a little more obviously just finishing a night out and made a sweet (?!) and loving couple. D and Hubby, the only two men in our little party, were decidedly uncomfortable. I used the unisex bathroom but when I heard two men come in behind me, talking in muted tones, and then I heard their zippers go, stagefright set in and I decided it was time to get the hell out of Dodge. I flushed twice and cleared my throat a lot so I could be sure they heard me before I exited the cubicle and fled as un-obviously as I could.

Later that morning, in a small town in Normandy:
We just said goodbye to our bus driver. He's been swapped out for a woman. "Desolet" - his words ;-)
He was great. He barely spoke a word of English but he looked after us like his own children, got us safely from Normandy to the Alps and back, made our beds, found us coffee and food and made us laugh. Thank goodness it's not far to go now because the woman who is driving now is playing a CD of panpipe music so loud that it's drowning out the Matchbox 20 on my MP3 player. And it's ABBA!

Well, it's over, it's done.
I had some good bits, and some not so good bits.
The pristine Alpine dreamland is now a mere memory of snow, sun, beauty, laughter and for some of us, terror.
Will I go again? Definitely!
But next time I'll get an instructor for myself right from the start.
And you know what? Even if I am the worst skier on the planet and I never do it again, I would still go because simply being surrounded by those majestic peaks and clean white slopes, sparkling icicles and bright blue skies, is worth the trip.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Terri's Big Ski Adventure - Part 2

[Go to Part 1 here]
[Or on to Part 3 here]

Monday Night:

I'm injured!!
I think we all saw that one coming.
Don't worry - it's not serious. Just as I was getting the hang of the whole skiing thing I lost control, my ski's crossed and in a spectacular wipeout that resulted in my right ski coming adrift I twisted my knee. OWWWW!!! So I did what any woman in my position would do - after checking slowly and carefully that I wasn't actually dead, I hobbled up the slope to the restaurant and rested, with a large mug of hot chocolate topped with the most divine chantilly cream you can imagine.

C, who was having about as much luck on her snowboard as I was on ski's, was also there, so after a delicious lunch, eaten at a table outside the restaurant at the edge of the slopes [even though it was only about 5 degrees outside and snow was falling gently but continuously by now], the two of us did the civilised thing while everyone else headed back to the slopes.
We went shopping.

Saint Sorlins d'Arves is not exactly what I would call a shopping mecca, but there are a number of small stores around, housed in quaint wooden buildings, so I was at least able to buy something. Even if it was just postcards and cigarettes.
After meandering down the streets [yes, down - the going uphill was done in navettes (shuttle buses) :-)] we stepped inside a pub and sat drinking yet more hot chocolate and coffee, chatting and watching the snow fall gently on the steep Alpine landscape outside. The barman perked up tremendously when we arrived, and turned the volume down on the TV to serve his only two customers with a friendly smile.
It was pleasant to sit and relax, making a new friend in C... right up until the part where I checked my phone and saw a message had arrived from Hubby.

"We are at the medics. J broke thumb. W broke collarbone."
Bummer! W is C's husband so we downed the remains from our mugs and immediately caught the little navette back to our chalet.

Which is where I am now. Everyone is safe and warm and dry inside, W happily high on painkillers, Hubby and D imitating a cats' choir attempting to sing along to Pink Floyd, A is pigging out on paté, R is looking ready for bed on the sleeper couch in her pink winnie-the-pooh PJ's and J is on the phone trying to sort out the medical bills for her thumb with her insurance company. One big happy family. Except that W keeps pulling strange faces every time he moves, from the pain in his collarbone ... or perhaps he's OD'd on painkillers? Time will tell.
And me? Well I'm happily warming my tummy with Old Brown Sherry, my postcards all written, and I'm keeping an eye on a beef stew bubbling away on the stove.
Occasionally a blast of icy air sweeps into the room when someone steps out onto the balcony to fetch beer - we have 4 cases of the stuff outside. It's bigger and colder than a fridge out there. Snow is still falling steadily in tiny star-shaped flakes. The surrounding peaks are glowing blue in the moonlight and all sound is muffled by the white powder that blankets everything. We are at 1600ft here, the icy air is clean and cold, and a sense of peace has settled on the resort after a day of boisterous activity.

This place is Paradise! It snowed all night and today all the trees are dusted white. There are clean, soft, powdery snowdrifts all around - perfect for snowball fights ;-)
My knee is not doing great today so I took my camera and accompanied the other injuries into town this morning on the navette, stopping to browse in a few shops before meeting up with the healthy part of our gang for lunch at our favourite outdoor restaurant. It feels strange to be eating outside, surrounded by snow, with flakes still falling, and yet not feel as if I'm freezing my ass off.

I have been having so much fun with my camera! I stood at the bottom of the slope and took pics of our group as they came down on their skis / snowboards. I didn't even feel the cold biting my fingers, or stinging my face - I was having too much fun.

Big D on Snowboard

Hubby Skiing!

The energetic bunch appear to have had enough of whizzing around in the snow for today, so we're back at the chalet now; "Pimp my Ride" is showing on MTV in the background, with German subtitles. There aren't a lot of channel choices on TV but we paid our €17 for it so dammit, we're going to use it! My coffee is now ready, comforting and warm, I am cosy and relaxed and feeling at last like I am truly on holiday.

A little later that evening...
While everyone was napping this afternoon I went out for a walk / limp by myself. It was awsome! It was still snowing, but not too cold, and I stopped every few metres to take photos because this place is just so picturesque and pretty; I played with a Collie dog who followed me for a while; and before I knew it I'd walked all the way down into town.
It was so peaceful.

Perfece 'Me' time.

Still Snowing

Old chalet on the way into town

Open-air stall for buying saucissons and other strange meaty things

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Terri's Big Ski Adventure - Part 1

Since this is likely to turn into one of my marathon-length posts I think I will split it over a few installments. So get comfy, make sure you have a cup of coffee / hot chocolate / vodka (whatever floats your boat) and enjoy.

Friday 13 Jan:
The alarm didn't go off so we woke up in panic 23 mins late and squished everything into our bags - the taxi only had to wait 5 minutes for me to check I had everything. Well, everything except the washing powder and a spare pair of shoes, which just wouldn't fit no matter how much I squished. Oh well, at least there was no queue at the check-in counter at the airport so we had time to eat breakfast before boarding our flight. We are scheduled for lift-off at 08h10. It is now 08h15. Maybe they'll fly real fast so they can maintain their 97% on-time record (?!). Hubby figured out his MP3 player despite the manual and is happily bopping away in his seat. I keep talking to him, making comments and such but of course he can't hear me. It's like travelling with a zombie. Maybe I'll take advantage of this..."You'll be happy enough if I go buy a new pair of shoes when we get there, won't you?"
He's nodding his head anyway - that means "Yes" doesn't it?

... still Friday, at Stanstead Airport, London:
I just saw the ugliest piece of luggage on the planet, in the possession of a middle-aged couple wearing football supporters gear, their jeans rolled up to reveal their lace-up boots, very Fonze-like. Their soft holdall - massive hideous turquoise flowers on a black background - was stalking them from behind on loud squeaky wheels. They must've been on acid when they bought it!

... later that evening, Dinard in Brittany, France:
We're sitting in Le Davy's Cafe where I'm enjoying my first decent cup of coffee today. Colourful lights cast a red glow inside this warm place, a haven from the cold air outside in this sleepy seaside village - which, for the record, looks like it really rocks in Summer. Karma Chamelion is playing from the ceiling-mounted speakers and a pair of Madonna's knickers are looking over my shoulder from where they are mounted in a display cabinet on the wall, right next to the moped.

Madonna's Knickers and a Moped
There's a pool table in the corner nearest us; no doubt Hubby and I will have a couple of games while we are relaxing in this pub, which wouldn't be out of place on a beach in California. Not that I've ever been to California, but I've seen it in the movies ;-)

Saturday 14 Jan - St Malo Ferry Terminal, Brittany, France:
I slept like a baby last night after a good pizza-and-wine dinner in an almost empty restaurant. According to our Taxi driver, Dinard is like a retirement village in winter and a beach resort in summer. We had a breakfast of fresh croissants and stand-up coffee [i.e. it will make you stand up in a hurry!] then Joseph the Taxi Driver [who drove us from the airport yesterday too] piloted us across the bridge to St Malo, where our friends will be arriving shortly on the Ferry from Jersey. Driving through St Malo, I was enchanted by the stone houses with their steep pitched roofs, white shutters and frilly woodwork, but mostly I wanted to dive out the taxi and go shopping - they have January Sales here too!!! And the shops all look so pretty and inviting... {sigh}... what's a girl to do...?

I'm sitting in the pub in the ferry terminal now, and for once I cannot face another coffee but instead am drinking a gorgeous hot chocolate, served to me by a faded beauty behind the counter who has just fed some huge scavenging seagulls, and is now being kept company by three rough-looking Frenchmen chain-smoking Gouloisses.
I love this country - you can smoke anywhere!!!

... still Saturday, in the Walled City of St Malo:
We're in a Pizzeria at a long table littered with bottles, drinks and empty plates. There are 10 of us together now, all talking and laughing and ready to embark on our Ski Adventure... This is what life is about!

... still later in a pub (again) in St Malo:
This pub is amazing. There are hundreds of dolls all over the place - the walls, ceilings and bar are all cluttered with different dolls, stuffed wildlife and all manner of knick-knacks. The floor feels like it is ready to collapse and you have to walk through and old elevator that looks like a confessional to get to the unisex loo. I can't believe places like this exist!

Dolls Everywhere!

Scary Doll on the wall above Hubby's head
... Sunday Morning 15 Jan, somewhere in France:
Happy Birthday to Me!
We've been on the coach for about 16 hours now, but with regular snack and loo stops thank goodness 'cos the on-board bog is a little manky. While we were eating supper last night the seats on the coach were converted into bunk beds - very clever indeed! After sucking on some antacid to settle the horse-burger I had for supper, I slept like a baby. When we stopped here around 7am it was still dark. We had breakfast then re-settled ourselves in the coach (once again in sitting-mode) and now we've been waiting here for another bus to arrive so we can get going again. We're surrounded by mountains, and the rising sun is painting the snowy caps orange. The grass underfoot crunches with ice when I walk. Note to self: Next time keep ski gloves close by in hand-luggage... I just went out for a smoke-and-photo session and it is DAMN COLD out there!
But really pretty :-)
Sunrise on the mountain near Chambery
...Sunday night - Saint Sorlins d'Arves, French Alps:
Well despite the 2-hour delay we arrived around midday at our resort, Les Sybelles, after climbing the winding roads that hug snow-covered mountains in a bus the size of which has no business being on roads that narrow! Unbelievably, the mountainsides were well populated with trees - leafless now in the dead of winter - clinging determinedly to near-vertical slopes, some growing at 45-degree angles. I was happy enough to be sitting on the mountain-side of the coach; others on the cliff-side weren't so happy to be staring straight out over a thousand foot drop, hehe.
I trusted our driver though, a friendly guy with great hair, and he didn't seem too concerned if one of the wheels wasn't quite on the road going around the corners. The youngest member of our party, J, had us all laughing because she was compulsively holding her breath while we were going through the tunnels... thanks to yet another father (hers) improvising new ways to shut the kids up on road trips when she was younger.

Now we're at the place that will be our home for the next week. Our chalet is the one at the end, right at the top end of the village, with a view of a mountain peak and steep ski slopes which are dotted with bundles of energy swooshing along on flat sticks.

View from our Chalet balcony

Hm, this afternoon I was one of those bundles of energy. Well, almost...
You'll be pleased to hear I lived up to my reputation.
Of the four of us taking the ski lesson today, I was the only one who fell over... several times. The first fall was spectacular - as I gathered momentum for the first time I panicked, turned around to look at Hubby for help and promptly fell flat on my face. Talk about a Kodak moment... but Hubby wasn't sure how pleased I would be at being photographed with a face full of snow, so sorry, there is no picture of that one. I, of course, was laughing hysterically as I raised my face from the powdery ground, spitting out a mouthful of snow as I did so and wiping yet more from my eyebrows.

Sadly for me, things didn't improve much from there. I hit panic every time I started to pick up speed, preferring to fall over rather than end up careening down the mountainside out of control. At one point I sat down, plonk, in an attempt to stop, but I kept going on my ass, heading for what looked like a cliff from my point of view, so I simply changed direction and ran straight into the ski instructor to stop. She didn't seem to mind but I felt like a right eejit. Everyone else was doing just fine!
But I had a lovely moment, when I almost got the hang of it going down the slope, and suddenly our entire group who were on the travellator going upwards, burst into a chorus of "Happy Birthday Dear Terri"which echoed across the slopes. That was very cool!!!
But I was really ready to leave when the hour was up.
Heaven knows what tomorrow will hold!
But never mind that. Tonight we bought some groceries and D and R made a lovely pasta for dinner which we ate while drinking champagne in honor of my birthday. Hubby paid €50 for the bottle at a truck-stop last night after arguing with the manageress, aw sweet! I would love to have seen that conversation - he speaking English, she French, and not a word understood between them!
I'll sleep well tonight. I've had some OB's, some coffee, some champagne and even dessert, and all in good company.
A very memorable birthday indeed :-)

On to Part 2

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Joyriding in Terriland

Perhaps 'Joyriding' isn't exactly the most accurate term.
It's been a tough couple of days - I seem to be in one of my 'worrying' modes, where everything just gets a little too much and I end up with thoughts spinning out of control inside my head. I'd tell you some of the dreams I've been having but they are so confused and haphazard that I couldn't even begin to string the words together. What can I say, I am a worrier. No, not a warrior [although some might disagree :-) ], a worrier, as in sometimes I just seem to worry about everything. And nothing. But, in the immortal words of... someone... "this too shall pass".
Yeah, I know, deep thoughts.

Moving on to shallower thoughts... did I mention we are going skiing in the French Alps this weekend? Yep, I'll be gone for the whole of next week, jet-setting with the rich and famous. Well okay, don't know about that but I will be with friends which is superbly brilliant in my book. I went and bought Hubby and I each 2 pairs of ski-socks today so at least my toes will be comfortable. I suspect it might be a little chilly where we're going - you know, the whole altitude and lots of snow thing.

Tonight is for sorting out the MP3-players for the trip. Hubby got one for Christmas and this evening he sat down to read the manual and figure out how it works. He's slightly technophobic, so this is necessary. Only... there's a slight possibility the manual was originally written in another language [Martian, perhaps?] and translated into English.
Check out the opening paragraph:

"To make you can operate the player expertly as early as possible, we prepare a detailed user manual acessory with the machine, in which you can get the related information such as introduction for production, operating measure and saftey notice. We edit the manual carefully and we think that the information provided in the manual is right and reliable, while the error and missing is incident, please excuse us and point out mistakes so that we can correct it."

[Where do I even begin...?!]

I won't bore you with the operating instructions but I just had to share one of the Warnings with you:
"2. Not fall the player down during using"

Then of course there is the section on "Basal function" [???!]
"Enter every kinds of menu by pressing the key of Mode."

Maybe that's what my problem is - I need to press my 'key of Mode'. {Plink} Happy Mode. Ooh, there ya go that's much better!

But never mind all of that, I've been playing with my new camera and it has a close-up mode. This is (part of) the Christmas Flower plant I bought myself in December. Seems like a good thing to end this post on.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Say what???

Has anyone else noticed how, despite all the clever things Microsoft have done, they have one major shortcoming, i.e... They Can't Count?
I sat down at my laptop which was running on battery and it told me I have 48 minutes of power remaining. 10 Minutes later it was dead.
Next time you're copying a large number of files or something, check it out... it will tell you "30 seconds remaining" but let me tell you, 30 seconds in Microsoft time is NOT the same as 30 seconds mortal time.
Oh, just in case you're wondering - I don't have a point, I'm just making an observation.

OK enough with boring computer-speak. What else can I tell you today?

Well it was the first day of school today. D-uh! Not for me - for my stepdaughter! The good news is she came home happy and shiny (or perhaps 'glowy' is a better word 'cos she was all pink in the face from walking home in the f-f-freezing c-c-cold we had here today) from her first day at her new school in a new country (for her), having made some friends and survived the classes, and explained to all the confused Irish kids that she's from South Africa, not Australia (it's a common mistake here for some reason. You know - we're all from the Southern Hemisphere, eh?!).
So we're all shiny happy people this evening.

Well, ok, some of us are just shiny.

Am I turning into one of those grown-ups who has nothing else to talk about except their kids? 'Cos if so, we have a problem. I swore when I was younger I would never do that. And technically I don't have kids!

Oh, wait, I talk about computers too. Exciting stuff.

Perhaps I should talk about writing instead. Or maybe I should write about talking. Confused yet? I am.
For those of you that haven't guessed yet, I'm on a little trip in Terriland at the moment - that vast, confusing, busy place that is the inside of the darkest corners of my head. The place that makes me dream things like, "I have to fit these gel inserts together correctly for the chair before the Injin's come! I can see the dust rising over the hills already!"
No, I didn't make that up.
And I wonder why I'm tired when I wake up in the morning...

OK so to try and get back to making sense, I will take up Linda's challenge and do the
5 More Weird Things About Me

1. There's a free newspaper handed out at the train stations in the morning. Because I start work real early, initially the first person I would see handing them out was a guy at the station I arrive at in town for work, but now they've started handing it out at the station I leave from to get to work. I still only pick it up on the other side of the journey though 'cos the one day I didn't was the day before Christmas holidays and when the guy I normally get it from saw I already had one he looked quite devastated, like he'd been looking forward to giving me my Christmas edition newspaper but I'd gone and spoiled it for him. So now I wait and always give him a smile and a thank you when I get the paper from him.

2. I have a handful of links to blogs in my "Favourites" that I never visit, but I don't delete them. I'm not sure why.

3. I keep all my receipts and check them off against my bank statements before I file them away, even if it is 4 months later. It's a hangup from when I worked as a bookkeeper many years ago.

4. I hate the colour pink. I may have told you this already. My blog was pink because I liked the layout & the picture at the top but eventually I couldn't stand looking at all that pink anymore, so now it looks, well, like this.

5. I have often been told that I am weird but when I have to make a list of why, nothing comes to mind :-) I've been sitting here staring at the screen for like 20 minutes now and this is the best I can do.

I'm going back to Terriland now. G'nite!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Swans 'n Soup on Sunday

We went out and bought a new digital camera today - a really nice Fuji FinePix. I will be selling my beloved Pentax SLR 35mm and the big zoom lens that goes with it {sniff} so the new purchase doesn't send us to the poorhouse in a month when it gets slapped on the credit card bill. I think it was a good decision, even though I will miss the lovely 'click' my old camera makes.

You see, I was sitting up in bed this morning thinking I would really like to go somewhere quiet & peaceful today, and I thought of a place nearby where the swans live, and then I thought what a good idea it would be to take my camera along, and then I thought that I really don't need photo's of swans in my photo album, so I should take the small digital camera with, but the trouble with that is it doesn't have a decent zoom on it... you can see where this is going. So I am finally ready to relinquish my pride and joy, the camera that has given me so much pleasure over the last couple of years.

And I think it will be worth it - it's nice to see the picture immediately so I can make adjustments accordingly and just delete the crappy ones without wasting money and paper on prints I don't need.
Yes, I'm doing it to save the environment ;-)

All I have to do now is figure out how the damn thing works, so I'll be spending the rest of the week reading the manual, because I want to be ready to take some awesome pictures when we go skiing in the Alps next week.

Meanwhile, even on point-and-shoot it does OK, don't you think?

But for now I'm off to make a second attempt at making soup for supper this weekend. I tried last night and was actually off to a good start, but then the recipe says, "Cook slowly for 30 minutes" and apparently I was cooking it too quickly because I went in to check on it after 20 minutes and all the water had boiled away and I was faced with an inch of charred mush at the bottom of the pot.
Hopefully tonight's attempt will be more successful 'cos we've no more pizza in the the freezer.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Wicked Stepmother Diaries #3

The two boys went home yesterday; my stepson and his cousin. We dropped them at the airport early in the morning & watched them wander on through the Security check, and by now they're back home with their respective mothers. The house seems awfully quiet all of a sudden.

Confession time: Although I was looking forward to seeing them for the holidays, I was a little apprehensive about all of us squeezing into our little apartment for 5 weeks... but you know what? There was no problem. It was such a pleasure having them around I could quite happily have had them stay for another 5 weeks.
But now they're gone and it's time to get back to the business of normal life. Well, almost normal.
Because my stepdaughter is still here, and Monday will be her first day at her new school. We've bought the uniform and the shoes and the books, and she has sorted out the spare room so it is now her own. And although I have these moments of intense anxiety (- what the hell do I know about looking after a teenage daughter? -) I think we'll all be OK. Right now she's sitting on the couch with her dad, watching rugby.
It's heartwarming to see.
Sometimes it makes me a little sad to see them together because I didn't get to do that with my dad, who passed away before I was old enough to really get to know him. But it also makes me happy because I know that as hard as it was for me to leave my stepchildren in SA when we moved over here, it was even harder for Hubby, and now he gets to have at least one of them with us all the time, which I think will set his heart at rest a little bit.

And as it turns out there was no Master Plan of Destruction - they weren't plotting to do away with me after all... unless this damn tummy bug I've had for the last 4 days is actually from slow poisoning disguised by umpteen cups of "Would you like me to make you some coffee, Terri?"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Have you ever?

Right, it’s time for me to share more of my deepest darkest secrets with you. I got this from Undr, and also from Linda.... once upon a time. It's been sitting in my Drafts for ages. Here goes.

Have you ever:

Smoked a cigarette
Yes, still do, far too many. My new year’s resolution for 2006 is no longer “Quit Smoking” but “Quit beating myself up for smoking too much”.
Crashed a friend's car
No, just my mom’s and my own. It sucks.

Been in love
Yes… as a matter of fact I’ve been in love with the same man for almost eleven years!!!
No. I almost stole a sweet when I was about 4 or 5 and the guilt is still with me.

Been in a fist fight
Does bitch-slapping count?
Snuck out of your parent's house
Not that I can remember. I was a reasonably good girl. Well, I like to think so, anyway.

Gone on a blind date
Yes. It was a disaster. Then I went out with him a second time (why????!) and ended up leaving the party with his friend. Very uncool, I know. I could be a real bitch when I was younger.

Skipped school
Once. It wasn’t even a real school day, it was one of those sports days. My mom found out (6th sense?) and confronted me but I felt so guilty about it she decided I was punishing myself enough on her behalf.

Been on a plane
Many, many times. I like to fly. It’s waiting in airports that I hate. Although airports are great for people-watching, one of my favourite pastimes. But I digress. Er, what was the question again?
Eaten sushi
No. It makes my hair stand on end just thinking about it!

Been moshing at a concert
No, but I’d like to.
Had a tea party
Hm, can’t remember. Possibly. Does serving tea for visiting relatives count? No? Well then I think the answer is no. I’m a coffee-drinker.

Fallen asleep at work or school
No. I’ve fallen asleep on the back of the motorbike a few times though.

Slept beneath the stars
Yes. Well… maybe in a tent, but to me it’s just as good.

Liked the way you looked at least at one point in time
Yes. I have a love-hate relationship with mirrors.

Played cops and robbers
Hasn’t everyone?
Sung Karaoke

I sang “California Dreaming” while I was on holiday in Crete.
Been kissed under the misletoe
A few times – Hubby is a total romantic!

Laughed so hard you pee your pants
Not yet, but it’s bound to happen sometime as I get older. I laugh a LOT!

I think that's enough sharing for one day, don't you? Gotta maintain some mystery about me... Feel free to tag yourselves. Go on - you know you want to ;-)

PS For Linda, 'cos I said I would, and for those of you who enjoy a bit of light reading occasionally, I've posted another short story on terristories.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

madness takes its toll...

The newspapers reckon that today is the most depressing day of the year - the day when everyone goes back to work after Christmas holidays. I'm not sure I agree. I have pretty much had enough of eating and drinking and socialising and am actually quite happy to be sitting at my desk doing my own thing.
"There it is," I hear you say. "Proof once again that she is stark, raving mad!".
Hm, the mere fact that I can hear you say this is proof enough of that in itself, don't you think? But let's not go into that right now.

The point is, I am actually quite happy to get back to some semblance of normality. I like routine. I find it comforting.
I put it down to my German heritage.
Rules too. I like rules. Well, guidelines more than rules. I follow rules because it is easier to do so. It's what makes me the dependable person I am. 'Diligent' would be a word that has been used to describe me many times over the years.
Of course, this all only applies if I actually agree with the rules, and if they suit me.
After all, my blood is only half-German, lol!

So I'm back at work and lilfe has returned to normal, except... where the hell is everybody? Is Blogland still on holiday or what?!

Talk to me, people!

On a completely separate note: Do you ever feel like you're an imposter in reality? I just had that sensation in a big way... like what the hell am I doing here???.
And people actually take me seriously sometimes, especially at work.
Scary! I mean really... Shouldn't you be asking someone who knows what they're talking about?