Friday, 29 August 2014

Enjoy a taste of pepper - or 50!

Since May, Winterthur Library has been partaking in the city's 750 year celebration with an Urban Gardening Project. Gardens of pots and other containers have been placed at various locations around town with the help of library customers.

The library has also held some key events such as seed swaps and tasting sessions and a pepper tasting session will take place tomorrow between 11am and 4pm, inviting people to experience more than 50 types of pepper, sweet and spicy, from around the world.

En guete!

Take part in the Grand Prix at Winterthur Library

The staff at Winterthur Library are very good at running events, especially for older children.

The next event will involve those aged between 8 and 13 years in a Grand Prix style race on 8th September between 4pm and 6pm.

Each participant brings in his own Nintendo for a battle on wheels using Mariokart over a wireless single card game and takes part in 15 races. The three best drivers receive a small price and the final takes place on 27th November with the triumphant name immortalised on the Grand Prix trophy.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Let's talk rubbish

I don't resent paying for the amount of rubbish I throw away each week - I think it's a great idea and certainly makes you think twice about what you can recycle. We fill between one and two 60 Litre bags each week and this size binbag demands two Abfellmarken. You can buy Abfellmarken in a strip of ten from Volg for 18chf. So this makes it 3.60chf for a standard bag of rubbish (you can of course also dump a 30 litre bag which would only cost 1.80chf)

So we probably spend around 7.20chf per week dumping our rubbish (although we could probably reduce that to no more than 3.60chf with a bit more effort) It sounds expensive but when you think about where it goes - ie to a landfill site where it will stew, producing poisonous gases for goodness knows how many years, then I think it's a pretty fair price to pay. People in the UK would do well to be forced to think about this by being charged for their rubbish. I used to have a neighbour in Cheshire who filled a black bin and had to take a further black bin's rubbish to the tip each week!

And of course by paying for their unrecycle-able rubbish people become more aware of what they buy, or don't buy, in the first place. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Swiss legend that is Pingu!

Once again, our village librarian has come up trumps with an amazing nugget of information – Pingu is Swiss!

Contrary to my earlier mis-informed belief that Pingu, the BAFTA award-winning stop-motion clay animated television series, was Norwegian, it was actually conceived by Swiss creator Otmar Gutmann.

Pingu was first presented at the Berlin Film Festival in 1987 and soon became a worldwide phenomenon with the simplest of plot lines and an indecipherable language consisting of squeaks and grunts rather than words, which on the DVD and video cases was sometimes dubbed 'Penguinese'. However, owing to the simple plots and descriptive body language, viewers need no dialogue to see what is going on. The family and home focused stories appeal as much to adults as to children.

German born Gutmann, who died in 1993, first created Pingu at his studio in Russikon, just down the road. There, he brought Pingu to life by producing a different figure for each individual movement sequence, with each scene constructed separately. The production studio looked as if littered with numerous tiny dolls strewn about haphazardly but the individual elements were gradually pieced together to produce a natural looking scene. Gutmann immersed himself completely in the world of Pingu and his team created the different tiny props including furniture, crockery and food.

The first Pingu series was aired on Swiss DRS TV station and soon experienced extraordinary success, eventually being shown on at least 100 different television stations throughout the world. Pingu also went on to win many prizes including the Kleiner Baer at the Berlin Film Festival (1987), the Japanese Maeda award (1991) and the French Prix Jeunesse (1991)

To this day, Pingu maintains a cult following and enjoys regular reruns on Cbeebies in the UK. It originally aired on the BBC between 1995 and 2005.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Hip Hop time at Winterthur Musikfest

We enjoyed the atmosphere outside the back of Manor on Saturday, mingling with the cool and trendy Wintie-types (and trying not to look too over-the-hill and out of place) It was a lovely mellow crowd, chilling out, drinking beer and enjoying a spliff or three, judging from the rather strong aroma of cannabis all around.

It was all in aid of a hip hop style event so we sat with growing excitement not knowing what to expect. However, I felt that on appearing, the group of performers were a bit of an anti-climax as the five (or was it six) of them proceeded to shout out their lyrics in the same endless fashion through far too many samey-sounding tracks. The girls enjoyed a bop though. I don't think it was a generation age thing. I've been to several hip hop type events which I've enjoyed - my favourite being Hip Hop poetry and I regularly enjoy a hip hop battle on U-Tube. I would have thought Winterthur would have a large pool of clever hip hop artists to wow the crowd with.

But although I was disappointed with the act I felt, once again, that the organisation, the diversity of events, the accessibility (most events free) and the incredible buzz of Winterthur Musikfestwochen has been an absolute joy to behold.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Zurich's Tigger is no more

We were all pretty gutted (especially my 15-year-old) to see that the griffiti in central Zurich featuring Tigger had been removed. I know the Swiss authorities take a very dim view of graffiti and have made a big effort to provide graffiti style artwork in train stations to appeal to youths but graffiti seems to be especially rife here - I guess it's the only way for youngsters to rebel because as soon as they hit 16 they can drink, smoke, ride a motorbike (up to 50cc) etc.

And a lot of the time graffiti does look messy and fairly ugly. But the graffiti I have seen in the city of Zurich is often petite and quite arty. And why oh why was Tigger taken away? We always visited him whenever in town. The kiddies adored him.

Oh well, I guess we can't bend the rules. And that's why Switzerland is such a pleasant place to live. Instead I will immortalise the wonderful Tigger on my blog :)

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Head to Winterthur for Musikfestwochen

If you haven't yet been, I highly recommend visiting Winterthur during the last few days of it's Musikfest. The bands are accomplished, the atmosphere is buzzing and it really is a great free day out - or an hour or two if that's all you can spare. It is also a fantastic event for families - children are encouraged to come along - and earplugs are even provided! (But perhaps bring your own incase they run out on the day) We caught Matteo Caprioli on Sunday and they were good. They like to take traditional folk songs and give them a reggae spin. So many people were singing along. It was fab music to dance too, I couldn't keep still (despite my 5-year-old sitting on my feet)

The acoustics are superb, it is very well organised and put together and it is lovely to see such different people chilling out together - punks next to toddlers, hippies rubbing shoulders with grannies, etc No one even minds if a parent hoists their child onto his or her shoulders - everyone just shuffles around to adjust their view!

And you can have a few beers and easily walk to Hauptbahnhof to catch a bus or train home - I love how packed the bus to ours was on a Sunday afternoon - see pic left.

We're planning to leave the kids behind tomorrow night and go and see Airbourne, a rockier band but this is a proper gig, also featuring Triggerfinger and The Family Rain, and costs 62CHF each. Now where did I put my leathers...

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Kleiner Strubbel takes the world of children's books by storm

Great news. Our village library is now also open on Mondays after school. I love our village library so much. It is well stocked, has fantastic staff and is a great place to bump into local people. And I am learning my German by reading children's books!

The staff are a font of information about local life in general. Just yesterday we were discussing the best place to pick strawberries (much cheaper than buying them) the most popular swimming pools and where the entire village goes to ice skate each winter (Effretikon)

I saw a list on the desk which was a list of 'plop.' Unpopular books which people avoid taking out, so they are turfed out regularly and new ones bought in. At this point, my 7-year-old and I started talking about a series of books we have been greatly enjoying at Winterthur Library – Kleiner Strubbel by Pierre Baily and Céline Fraipont. They really are brilliant – big bold, fun illustrations in comic format without words, so children can tell the story themselves. These would probably be very unpopular in the UK – 'Books without words – but how will they learn to read??' I can hear them say.

The official age recommendation for these books is 3-6 but they really do appeal to all – my 5-year-old loves them, my 7-year-old loves them and I love them. The plot in each book always follows the same format – Kleiner Strubbel's mum waving him off as he sets out on an adventure, he gets into trouble, feels scared and lonely, pulls a photo of him and his mother from his rucksack which makes him feel better and by chance, the characters which initially scared him start to become his friends.

So in just 30 pages or so the 'reader' will discover a beautiful story with a strong plot, a host of delightful details and wonderful illustrations.

And best of all, our village librarian said she would get a couple of the books in to see if the other children also like them. And they are very current – there's a new one due out – Coconuts Schatz on 1st October.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Schulanfang brings mixed feelings

I was in a bit of a tizz last night trying desperately to get organised for the kiddie's first day back to school today. Although there is no school uniform here there is still rather a lot to remember. The checklist included sun hat, gym kit, art shirt, snack, slippers, toothbrush with cap, name labels on clothes (not yet done) and school info paperwork (not yet done) Bee had to illustrate her name for her chair at Kindergarten and Pop had to include something from the holidays to talk about - she took her Lego panda but there was a last minute panic this morning when she couldn't find his stick of bamboo.

And despite my panic I still managed to forget to set the alarm clock! However I needn't have worried, my body-clock was primed and I awoke at 6.40am (the girls need to be out of bed at 7am for a 8.10am start) And we made it to school in one piece and, amazingly, on time without too much chaos.

It was lovely to see parents on the school run for a change, taking up the First Day schoolers who were each presented with a sunflower. The bigger kids then formed an archway corridor with their arms for the newbies to walk through to their class which I thought a lovely tradition.

And walking home this morning I saw an amazing thing - a big yellow poster up in the village reminding drivers to look out for schoolchildren and encouraging 'Patience' and 'Tolerance' (see below)

I have mixed feelings about my children returning to school - we have had such fun over the holidays (despite the rain) and I had a pang of sadness and loss walking up with them this morning. But it has also been pretty hectic, as holidays always are with kids as you try to cram in plenty of activity to keep them amused. And I'm now looking forward to a little bit of 'me' time as I pick up my running and writing again. However, a nervous morning follows as I wait for my children to return, hopefully with a smile.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Cross the Bratwurst with the Brot at your peril

I love those little quirky things which are deeply rooted in each nation's traditions and culture - for me, the best in Switzerland so far is the one with governs that most popular of fast food snacks - the Bratwurst and the Brot. And never the twain shall meet.

They wrap their sausage up in a napkin in one hand and hold their giant sausage in the other (ooh missus!) and alternate a bite from each - the sausage must first be dipped religiously in ketchup and/or mustard before being chomped. Never, ever, does the sausage meet the bread. If, god forbid, you see someone putting the sausage inside the bread you can safely presume they are German or hailing from some other similarly weird foreign place.

I was thinking of this first thing this morning as I explored a series of paintings that I am planning to create of that most fabulous of female iconic sculptures in Konstanz - Imperia. And quickly doodled the two together. I think it might sell...

Monday, 11 August 2014

A picnic with a view

Yesterday I headed to Berne to see an old friend who was visiting Switzerland for her cousin's wedding - her aunty moved here from the UK 31 years ago and understandably never left. We were going to go by train (only an hour and 5mins from Zurich HB to Bern HB) but the location for our meeting was Gurtenpark, a bit further out of town and we thought driving would be easier with picnic supplies.

Being Sunday the motorway was pretty quiet and we made it to the Gurtenpark car park in one and a half hours (amazingly without getting lost once) I was very impressed to see chargers for electric cars and a bicycle wash for cyclists.  It was a three minute walk to the Gurtenbahn (every 15 minutes) a funky funicular train to the top of the hill.

We then made a beeline for the Spielplatz which was peeking tantalisingly out through the trees, dashing first to a little pond, complete with a miniature raft with which kiddies can traverse the pond by rope, then to an exciting looking Rube Goldberg contraption with gears to push, pull and twizzle to make the balls go round (a few were disappointingly not working but it didn't spoil the overall enjoyment for the girls) and then a wonderful wooden climbing structure from which to rule the park. There is also a gorgeous little train (the Kleineisenbahn) which takes you around the playpark and of course the essential ice cream stop.

The park is very large, with plenty of space for the children to run free and enjoy a picnic (with lots of shady spots from the trees) There are also two restaurants - one self service - a snack bar and a hotel for longer stays. It's also a cracking venue for concerts and theatre productions.

Well marked hiking trails run around the park, with stunning views of the Bernese Alps. Route 4 takes you back down to the car park in less than an hour.

A great day out - and the perfect place to catch up with old friends :)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

A little spot of paradise by the river

We've found a little spot of paradise by the River Töss. It's so picturesque. On Tuesday we parked up in a secluded car park and cycled out there - about a mile - to a little beach place where the girls can freely paddle across the river to the far side! This they did while I got a fire going and when they had explored to their heart's content we toasted marshmallows. Yum.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

It was all going so well - and then disaster struck

"How to claw disaster from the jaws of victory," grumbled Gourmet Gray as we watched the 768 airport bus sail off into the night with Bebe's bag still on it.

It was almost 11pm on Friday night and we'd just returned from the UK, jumping on the bus for just one stop to disembark at Balsberg where we'd parked the car. We were all in very high spirits as it was the first time mummy and her girls had been away by ourselves, had gone splendidly and now we were seeing daddy for the first time in a week. Until the bus disappeared with our bag.

The bag in question was a Barbarpapa bag which Bebe had bought with her birthday money the week before. And in it was Eggy, a baby dinosaur in a pod which Bebe had got at Conny-land for her birthday, a Nintendo console and games. So this was a pretty special bag to my 5-year-old.

In amongst the distress and tears, Gourmet Gray and I heatedly discussed finding the bus and following it or waiting for the bus to return to the airport. Neither of which stood much chance of success as we had no idea of the bus route to Oerlikon and it was late and for all we knew may be the final bus of the night.

So we headed home under a despondent cloud.

However, there was a chink of light, this being Switzerland, and there was a good chance that it would be handed into the lost property office, which unfortunately wouldn't open until Monday.

So we spent a slightly tense weekend. But come Monday morning, there was Bebe walking out of the Lost Property office in Wallisellen wearing her Barbarpapa bag (with all its contents intact) and the biggest smile.

You have gotta love the Swiss.

Home again safe and sound