Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Rocking Winterthur Half Marathon

I love to run. But I don’t run in races. I’ve never understood running in a race I will never have the chance of winning. My hubbie seems to think this is a crazy notion, ie it’s not about the winning, it’s about the taking part (although we all knew that wasn't true when our parents told us as kids)

So, anyway, this leads us to spending lots of time at running races – hubbie running in them and me watching them. Which I actually don’t mind because I love the atmosphere at these events and so do my girls. We've been to a few in Switzerland now and they are always very well organised - and the majority of those taking part are pretty fit - even the seniors, So you may find yourself in a different overall position to that which you are accustomed to - and you may find yourself being overtaken by a surprising number of sprightly runners who are 20 years or more senior than you. But don't let that put you off, you'll still have a blast.

And last weekend’s Marathon/Half Marathon event in Winterthur certainly didn’t disappoint.

We arrived just under an hour before I expected Gourmet Gray and his brother Paul to finish and the atmosphere was buzzing. There was rock music playing loudly, the perfect musical accompaniment to any public, testosterone-led get together I feel. We squeezed into a space in the crowd of people lining the last 100 metres before the finish and started ‘hop, hop’ hop’ (ing) the runners as they headed for home. The lovely thing about this race was that every runner had his first name on the front of his vest so the audience could shout encouragement to each runner by name, which I think is a lovely touch.

The music went off and a band started playing just as there was a frisson in the crowd and the first Half Marathon runner came in (Dadi Fikru Abera at the amazing time of 1:06)

It was of course a little while later before daddy arrived but I was over the moon for him breaking his PB in under two hours. I love to witness the elation among the runners as they cross the line on a high and feel a little stab of something – who knows, perhaps one day I can also run a race without the need to win.


Details of Sunday's Winterthur Marathon competitors here.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Spring Inspiration

I love to see the flowers spring up all over our village, it is so very beautiful at this time of year. I began buying flowers to paint but that turned out to be a little too expensive - and they often died before I finished my picture :( So I have now resorted to taking photographs of beautiful flowers I see in their natural state all around my village and Winterthur city. And then I paint them in the comfort of my own home at leisure. Here is my latest effort in watercolours. What inspires you at this time of year?

Monday, 23 May 2016

A lorra laughs at Winterthur's Comic Slam

At the weekend we experienced Winterthur’s first Comic Slam event which brought together nine of the city’s talented illustrators and cartoonists.

The stage was set in the atmospheric Alte Kaserne on Teknikumstrasse (why have I never come across this amazing place before) in the ‘heart of Winterthur’s comic scene.’ Cartoonists taking part were: Lilian Caprez, Schlorian, Daniel Bosshart, Zea Schaad, Caro Rutz, Rina Jost, Frida Bünzli, René Lehner, Beni Merk.

After first emailing the very nice Daniel Bosshart, president of the club behind the event, to check it was suitable for children and being assured it was, I took my 9-year-old daughter who is a huge comic fan (she became really interested in comics on our arrival here as the libraries have buckets of them and I now happily attribute this to her being an avid reader and picking up German so easily) 

After paying our 15sfr entrance fee (10sfr adult, 5sfr child) we had out hands stamped and were given a red strip of paper each on which to write a word. This required thought – what word would give a cartoonist potential for a great cartoon? And, out of my fairly unsophisticated German vocabulary, which could I spell correctly with some degree of certainty?  I finally settled on Überraschung – surprise – (but did have to check the spelling with my daughter) who spurned my suggestion of elefant – pretty self-explanatory - and instead chose geschenk (present)

We were early enough to bag a good table in front of the main stage and sat down with a glass of red wine and a coke purchased from the small, well stocked bar inside. A lovely lady artist from Henngart also sat at our table and told me lots of juicy facts, for instance, one of the artists taking part - Lilian Caprez – has recently won third place in the Fumetto International ComicFestival Competition in Luzern.  

Just then the show started, ably and wittily compered by René Brügger & Andrew Wolfensberger. I only understood sections of the chat but that didn’t matter as it wasn’t too long before a word was being drawn out of the pot and the first three artists were busily sketching.

I think they had just three minutes to complete each drawing – and it wasn’t easy, as some members of the audience had submitted horrendous words such as ‘winter jacket’ ‘ahoy’ and ‘national anthem?’ And the comperes ended up chucking more than a handful away over their shoulder in disgust. But then, to our delight, my word was pulled out, along with the word ‘Eule’ (owl) and three very entertaining sketches ensued. 

The atmosphere was buzzing and I especially loved the countdown music and clapping for the last seconds of each sketch. There were nine illustrators and graphic artists competing against each other in all (three rounds) And the audience voted for the best in each round, with much applause, and finally Caro Rutz, all the way from the French speaking part of Switzerland, was crowned the supreme winner.

There was a disco afterwards with a DJ but it was 11.15pm and it was time to take Poppy home although she was still amazingly upright and buzzing with the thrill of it all. On the way out, I spotted Beni Merk who had made one of the ‘owl surprise’ sketches and asked him if there was any chance I could have it as it featured my word. He said somebody had already taken it and on seeing my crestfallen face offered to redraw it just for me! How amazing is that? So I had a super fab entertaining night – the event was very well organised and ran extremely smoothly - and I came away with an original sketch to boot!

The Club Comic Panel Winterthur was established on 7th October, 2013, when eleven comic enthusiasts came together on the back of the city’s anniversary project which involved many of them sketching an illustrative street plan of Winterthur (which is available to buy) The association aims to promote comic art and provide a way for professionals and enthusiasts to network, as well as promoting their work to the public.

The next big event at the Alte Kaserne is an all hours marathon art session which begins on Thursday (26th) and lasts until Sunday (29th) After this, the exhibition of all the creations is on view until 8th June.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Comic Slam and other stuff going down in Winterthur

There is some good alternative entertainment in Winterthur this coming week and weekend.

At the Theatre Casino, Familie Hinztagram, an improvisation event, is already a sellout next Tuesday. In this story, it all goes haywire with the family Hinz as the audience dictates how the family should live. The creativity of the audience will have no limits and everything is possible. For chaos is taken care of, and daughter Leah posting this diligently on Instagram. The event includes a special improvisation theatre for young people.

At Winterthur's Alte Kaserne on Saturday from 8pm, nine illustrators and graphic artists will compete against each other while inspired by suggestions from the audience which then chooses the best cartoon. Amongst those present are Daniel Bosshart, who is a well known figure on stage. Zea Schaad, who has designed the funky logo for the event (pictured above) will also step into the ring.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Salad days are here again

Hurrah, sunny spring days have returned so it is time to wade into salad territory. Whenever we eat salad you can almost see the thought bubbles drifting above our heads which say 'nice, but it would be better with a good slice of meat on top.' So I am always looking out for salads full of flavour and a bit more welly.

And the latest which we sat down to last night is super yummy. It's a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg Every Day book. It suits Gray and I very much with it's middle-eastern tahini dressing (we have both spent a great deal of time in the Middle East) Frying the courgettes is time consuming and a bit of a hassle but I assure you it's worth it :)

The Tahini Dressing
  • ½ garlic clove, crushed with a little coarse sea salt
  • 2 tbsp tahini (stir the jar well first)
  • Finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • Juice of ½ orange
  • ½ teaspoon clear honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
The salad
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium courgettes sliced into 3mm [very thin] rounds
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • About 125g French green beans, trimmed
  • 4 good handfuls of salad leaves
  • 12-18 oven dried tomatoes or semi-dried tomatoes (optional)
  • A handful of mint, finely shredded (optional
The recipe

Make the dressing by mixing crushed garlic in a small bowl with the tahini, lemon zest and juice, honey and a grind of black pepper. The dressing may go grainy but you can thin it down by whisking in a little water, 1 tbsp at a time until you get a creamy, trickling consistency. Finally, gently stir in olive oil. Taste and add more seasoning if needed.

For the salad, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the French beans, for 1-3 minutes. Drain, then dunk in cold water to refresh. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a fairly high heat and cook the courgette slices in batches, tossing them occasionally until tender and browned on both sides. Transfer to a bowl lined with kitchen towel to soak up any residue oil. When all courgettes are cooked, season generously with salt and pepper, add the lemon juice and chilli and toss together well. Pat green beans dry and toss with the courgettes.

To assemble the salad, spread salad leaves in a large shallow serving bowl and scatter over the dressed courgettes and beans, tomatoes and shredded mint. Trickle the tahini dressing generously over the whole lot and serve. En guete!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Held up by the Love Ride procession

As we were making our way back from a perfect Mother's Day morning at Pfäffikon Am See, we were forced to stop for the biggest procession of bikers I have ever seen. I mean, we are talking hundreds of bikes, which took nearly 10 minutes for them all to pass, accompanied by police escorts. The girls were very excited as all these big burly bikers revved their engines and waved at them as they went by. It was amazing.

I later found out it is all part of a Love Ride event which began in early 1993 when bikers Erwin W. Wyrsch and Gabi Müller in Bänikon / Kloten were looking to have a Harley Davidson meet up but were aware of the perhaps negative impression that would be caused for locals by a big crowd of bikers gathering together in a particular location. The solution was to have a festival which would not only be attractive for motorcyclists but one that would endear non-bikers with a good cause and perhaps a raffle with super prizes.

They thought it would be good to follow in the wake of the US Love Ride movement which raises money with a big annual bike ride supporting the Muscular Dystrophy Association, of which Harley Davidson is the official sponsor.

This is now the 24th year for Love Ride Switzerland, which takes place each year on the first Sunday of May. This year, hundreds of bikers were making their way to the airfield at Dubendorf, which is why we passed many on our way back from Pfäffikon, then again passing through Oberwil next to our village. I think most of them were heading to the event (which began at 8am!) for the 2pm stunt show, and certainly for the 3pm big raffle that has in the past included a prize of a flight to the US and hire of a bike to partake in the LoveRide event there! There are plenty of rock gigs but also stuff for the children with an on-site circus.

I can imagine the atmosphere is very special and would love to go along next year.


Saturday, 7 May 2016

Lunch at Frau Gerold's Garten

It's Open Season for the freibads this week so we've overdone the outdoor swimming a bit and the girls wanted a change. I had just one thing in mind - after an outdoor dip my favourite place to be when the sun is shining is Frau Gerold's Garten in Hardbrücke.

This amazingly warm and friendly meeting place began in summer 2012 as a temporary project ‒ a beer garden complete with kitchen garden ‒ at the foot of the Prime Tower. It has since grown into a hip and trendy institution, with shops, art, and a community garden.

We somehow managed to bag the best table on the roof terrace thanks to my eldest daughter who charmed the pants off a couple who beckoned her over when they were leaving, telling her to bag it before anyone else did! Our corner table gave us welcome shade, with prime views of the rest of the garden, the railway tracks and snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance.

The girls enjoyed cans of orange and lemon zesty fizz, I had a beautiful rhubarb drink and we shared Bratwurst, Cervelat, Gerold's special potato salad, hummus and pitta bread. The food was lovely and plentiful.

The place is open until midnight (except Sundays) all summer and is reduced to a charming wooden hut serving fondue in winter.

I hear with a sad heart that Frau Gerolds Garten’s days may be numbered, with plans for a shiny new convention centre to be built on the site. Recent plans failed but it's a horrible thought. However, the garden has been built with temporality in mind - the containers and vegetable beds can easily be packed up and moved elsewhere, so I guess the garden will find a new home if this happens. It just seems so perfect where it is right now though.


Friday, 6 May 2016

Former bunker becomes swanky pool

I love how resourceful the Swizzlis are. I've just been reading about a former military bunker in the canton of Zurich which has been given an incredible facelift and now houses a funky new swimming pool (see pic left)

The idea to repurpose the bunker came from the local council after officials realised they could kill two birds with one stone by disposing of a useless and expensive piece of real estate and providing much needed space for a swimming pool in the area.

Zurich architects Illiz won the council competition to come up with a design for the pool which took two years to complete and 7.5m Sfr lto fund and offers stunning views of Lake Zurich and the Albis chain.

Traces of the original bunker remain, such as the hexagonal floor tiles, the old numbers marking the former sleeping quarters and the beige walls but the pool is no doubt state-of-the-art - shame it isn't open to the public (not sure who the lucky people are who get to use it)