Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Geek and proud!

Ding dong the pain has gone, the evil pain has gone.
Ding dong the pain has gone, the evil pain has gone.
(Sang to the tune of Ding dong the Witch is dead from The Wizard of Oz.)

Yes my tooth/gum pain is gone. Three days without pain killers and only a tiny bit of numbness. I'm glad that's all over. I can smile, sing, eat and drink once more. Now I just have to persuade myself to start eating on that side. I've been eating everything on my left side for the past 3 months. Eek. Don't want to wear my other teeth out.

And so to the weather, which of course we have to discuss (or I have to talk at you about) because let's face it, I'm British and it's in the old DNA. Saying that though, it seems everyone that moves here and adopts our lovely country also soon becomes obsessed with the weather. Me, personally, I've learnt not to really give a crap. If it rains then I slap on the old Doc Martens and put and umbrella in my bag. If it's sunny I still have the umbrella but I lob in sunglasses and a sun hat (how very stereotypical English of me. But I do burn easily being fair skinned and freckly.) It really doesn't bother me. I think after almost 29 years on this planet you just kind of roll with it. There's no need to freak, unless of course you get extreme weather and flooding and scary shit like that, but really as in most disasters, Britain is quite lucky. We don't have volcanoes, we have teeny and infrequent earthquakes, though some would call them earth-tickles. And we don't get things like tornadoes or hurricanes. So really, I think the fact that we don't always have the best summer weather really isn't that much of an issue.

Every one's weather is fucked up at the moment and you just can't expect the weather to be like it was when we were kids. I mean, back then you could almost guarantee that for your 6 weeks of summer holidays, at least four of them would be scorching and sunny and lovely. Now, you just can't guarantee anything, because us good old humans have right royally fucked up a lot of stuff and now global warming is here to play mind games and tricks on us.

The whole of Europe is experiencing the same, or at least northern Europe. I bet they don't complain like Britains do. I just find it really annoying. I know it's hot out there and most of the time it's too hot for me. But I don't say it. I slap on a sun hat, some factor 50 and the least amount of clothing I can respectfully get away with in an educational environment (cut off jeans - still past my knee - vest top and sandals). And I get on with it. I stay in the shade if I need to and I try not to run around like a loony otherwise I get a sweaty 'tache (upper lip) and I get that hideous trickle of sweat down my back that makes me feel like a huge sweaty man. No offense to huge sweaty man, it's just that in English myth, I'm a woman so therefore am supposed to perspire and not sweat everywhere like some disgusting beast. Urgh!

Oh, I digressed. Shocking. So basically what I'm trying to say is: British public, you've complained for the last three months that we've had too much rain and it's been a rubbish summer and all that jazz. Well now it's sunny, so get out there, enjoy it, buy an ice lolly or a cheeky ice cold cider (mmmmm salivating at thought, even though it's currently 7.49am) and soak up that vitamin D. Open those windows and balcony doors (if you have one) and 'Let the sunshine. Let the sunshine. The Sunshine in!'

Okay, I think I've said my piece now.

It's bikini weather on the tube again and it can only get worse with the coming days. 2 days till the main event and I think everyone is just expecting this enormous wave of people to just sweep through the city, destroying everything in it's path. There's definitely a degree of anticipation every time you queue or attempt to board public transport. But so far there's been no disruptions or crazy over load of people on my end. Just the usual combination of people that don't have a clue and get in your way and those seasoned pros that lock themselves away with a book and some headphones and escape to another world before disembarking at their destination.

Of course, I'm one of the seasoned pros. Ha. Ooooo. Finished book 3 of Game of Thrones. Freakin' awesome. The only reason I'm not currently reading book 4 is due to three other books turning up, so I thought I should read them first. (I pre-order books way in advance and then completely forget what I've ordered.) Anyhoo, I've read one of them (one of the many YA series I'm still buying into.....all in the name of research....), I'm part way through 2 others. One is my secret book (Thanks J but I ain't reading that on the tube) and the other is another YA series book. But I definitely can't wait to get back into Game of Thrones. It's just amazingly brilliant. Even the characters you think you hate, you still need to find out what happens to them. You still can't wait for their chapter to come around again. Genius stuff! Check it out if you can, though if you're short of space like me, you might want to reconsider the actual books and get kindle editions or something. There's a lot of them and they're all pretty stodgy. I personally have to have the book. I'm old fashioned that way, but as A keeps pointing out, we're running out of room on the shelves and there ain't really room for my shelves. Though I've had a plan....muhahahahahahaha. And I won't stop buying them. Never! I love books!!!!!!!!!

Geek! And proud!

And so to our weekend in Luxembourg. Wow! I was never expecting it to be so green! Everywhere forests and gardens and parks. Even in the capital, Luxembourg City, there's forests as far as the eye can see and luscious green valleys. This means amazing bridges as well. (I love bridges too.....really am a geek.)

Of course we did a whistle stop tour of the whole country in less than 48 hours and yes we did have a car. He he. A loves to drive when we're on holiday. It's only 2 hours outside of Brussels, so we got Eurostar there and then the rental car. I would definitely recommend.

And so to Luxembourg's main attractions and there are a lot of them: CASTLES! We went to visit so many of them. They're in various states of composure, some renovated quite recently, others a little down trodden, but all beautiful in their own particular way. (Photos will follow, I just haven't had time to put them on my computer yet. Maybe I'll do a photo only blog with some pics in.)

The most confusing thing about Luxembourg is that you never quite know what language they're going to speak. There are three national languages: Luxembourgish, French and German. And most people speak some English as well. Sometimes you talk to someone in German (okay well A does) but they answer in French or vice versa. A was getting well confused, But me, I'm always confused. I just smile and nod...
Big respect to them though. Speaking three languages is just incredible. I really am in awe of people that can fit more than one in their head. I think my excuse is that there's too much other stuff in my head. No room for a fluency in another language. It's stuffed full of story ideas (currently about ten projects going on at the same time). Basically, words that haven't been written yet. Text that is waiting to be typed. The thing is, I know that as soon as I clear some, more ideas just nestle their way in, filling all the nooks and crannies.

Still I hold on to the hope and I'm sure A and his whole family do too, that one day there'll be enough room to squeeze some Italian vocabulary and the confidence to use it. I promise, I am working on it.

There were some amazing clouds over the Luxembourg skies and of course, the Cloud Appreciation Society Member that I am (again geek status!) was getting pretty snap happy. My favourites were the cumulus clouds (the big fluffy white ones) that were hovering over the entire sky as far as the eye could see. They were varying sizes and looked to be barely moving. It honestly looked like an alien invasion. (Speaking of alien invasions, we've just started watching an American series called Falling Skies with Noah Wyle in it. It's quite formulaic and a little predictable at times but I quite like it. Plus, Noah Wyle is yum as the dad figure.)

Again, I digress. Okay, so the food in Luxembourg is a combination of stuff, influenced by both French and German cuisines and also with some of their own specialities and of course some americanised stuff like burgers and what not. Here are three facts about eating and drinking in Luxembourg.

1. They don't scrimp on portions. (I felt so ill after our meal on Saturday night. My body just couldn't handle that much food. But don't get me wrong it was insanely delicious and the fat girl in me - oh yes, she's still there lurking - was having a lovely time.)

2. Chips come with almost everything. (This of course is fine if like me, you never eat chips unless you go for a pub lunch or a holiday. Although, they do get a bit much after a while. Bloody good chips though. Chunkier than the Belgium Frites but still yummy.)

3. Their wines are delish! (They have a famous wine region that make all my favourites: Pinot Gris and Reisling. It just so happens that these two have the nicest bottles as well. Weird that. You can go to one of their cellars and try a load. We bought two cases. One with 6 bottles of Pinot Gris and the other with a mixture including their own special sparking wine which is meant to be great! So anyone coming for dinner in the next couple of months, you can know what to expect. Ha ha.

So basically, Luxembourg is beautiful. A bit of a pain to navigate due to a lot of road works and construction going on. But full of green pleasant lands and forests you could swim in. Plus wine and food a plenty for very reasonable prices and their local wines are available in all restaurants and cafes, so you can try various ones at your leisure. There are an abundance of beautiful towns and villages all nestled away in these almost secret locations, just waiting to be discovered. And to be honest, it was the height of July, presumably high season on the tourism and there was barely anyone there. Amazing. Explore at your leisure and soak up the strange combination of French, German, Belgian influences, as well as their own quirky take on things. Expect clock towers, Abbeys and Gothic turrets. And everyone.....GO TO LUXEMBOURG!

He he. I will just finish with our wonderful getting back to Brussels panic. (I realise this is a long blog. Believe me, I've been here over an hour already. I'm still in my Pj's and I haven't eaten brekkie yet. oooops.)

And so, we're pounding our way along the motorway, heading to Brussels for the Eurostar home and with 50 kms to go, A starts to panic. We're on the red light on the petrol gauge and cannot seem to find any petrol stations. We use various I phone apps which tell us up to 30kms to the nearest one. But we dont' think we have 30 kms left and we have no way of knowing. PANIC!

We pull off the motorway and A goes into a bar to ask for the nearest petrol station. And bam. We are saved by a tiny self-service machine on the side of the road. And amazingly we had to go past a big castle to get to it. (Any excuse to see another one. )

Then of course, It's only 90 minutes to our train and we're still 50 kms away. We have to return the car, sort our bags out and get some food, hopefully having enough time to swing by the business lounge. There's nothing like a free vodka and some nibblies before the train home.

So we get into the centre of Brussels and the traffic is horrendous due to being a busy capital and also works everywhere. Of course we get lost trying to find the parking, but eventually with about 40 mins to go we manage to return our car and head off to find food and drink. We board with 10 mins to go, wine bottles rattling in our bags. Can't wait to crack a bottle open.

I really must fly now. 25 mins before I leave for work. I need to get my bikini on ready for the inevitable sweat fest of my underground metal tube. Yippee!

Happy, sunny Wednesday. ENJOY. (That's an order.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Zoo. An escalator Query. Postman Music.

Wow! What a day yesterday. I was in charge of a zoo trip with 24 children and 7 other adults. Can you say Eeesshk?

My manager was typically off sick as this monumental event was occurring leaving me with the ultimate responsibility of trying not to lose a child or come back with any missing limbs.
We all joked about it but let's just say that just like the Segway experience-last blog-putting other people's lives in my hands=very scary stuff.

Needless to say we passed the first hurdle pretty well in that all seven of the Addison Lea cabs we ordered got us there safely and pretty much on time for when the zoo opened. Hurdle 1 successfully jumped.

Hurdle 2 involved me paying for everything but again that was successfully passed.

Then hurdle 3 was the weather and we were so lucky that it only rained on us once when we were eating our picnic under the cover of trees. Whoop!

Of course hurdle 4 was the animals. We went to the Africa bit and of course none of the animals were out or they were asleep. Showing empty pens to kids......not that interesting. but finally found the giraffes and they even came over to us and we took some photos and stuff.
The lions and tigers were sleeping....lazy buggers. But our definite saving grace was the Gorillas. There were 3 of them swinging around, eating cabbages and drinking from water bottles ("Just like you do Helen.") and generally staring around. they especially liked it when they were scratching their elbows. ("They got an itch like me.")

Unfortunately hurdle 5: tiredness was failed by all in question, including the teachers. After lunch most of them said they wanted to go home. Some of them were practically asleep whilst walking and others started whinging to be picked up. URGH. But we powered through and even made it to the Aquarium and saw the penguins.
Have to say my favourite moments was when one of my little boys had just come out of the Gorillas and he saw a pond. He said, "Look Helen. It's a little Walrus."
I said "Where?" Puzzled.
He pointed at a duck. "Oh actually, it's just a duck." Ha ha.
Kids are awesome.

So we all made it back, with limbs in tact, no toileting accidents (which is a frickin' miracle) and (sadly) no lost children.  Could have fed a few to the Lions, only they were sleeping...........'kidding.....but not really.' (Ben Stiller-Dodgeball)

And now for an escalator query: Why do people intending to stand on the right, queue up with the walking/running up lefties and then cut in front of you, therefore holding up both queues?

That's a fairly lengthy query, I realise now. But it's bloody annoying, especially when you're already late to meet your friends and you've got to queue up to use an escalator anyway (that still baffles me, it must be the hesitation? If people just walked and got on the escalator straight away there wouldn't be all this crazy congestion.)

Anyhoo, could you just stop it you irritating trying to push in, holding up both lines, don't know if you want to be lefties or righties people. Just make a decision, stick to it and adhere to the none rocket science instructions such as, walk on the left, stand on the right. It's fairly self explanatory. There's even a diagram for those that don't read English. What could be simpler????

Though I have just remembered how irritating it is when people walk on the left but then stop half way up or down. Again, make a decision and don't be a fucker. It's a sure fire way to piss off a shit load of locals.

He he. When I was off to the tube station this morning, I couldn't help but giggle. I went past a post van with the windows down and out was blaring this crazy, slightly offensive rap music. What made me laugh is that I still have this really innocent Postman Pat outlook on postmen (or women) and I guess part of me thinks that they would drive around listening to the Postman Pat theme.

You know: Postman Pat. Postman Pat. Postman Pat and his black and white cat. Early in the morning, just as day is dawning, he picks up all the post bags in his van.

NOT: Yeah. Uh. Check it out. My ho's and bitches wanna suck my ******* (how many asterisk? Not sure what that word is supposed to be....suggestions please.)

He he. I am weird.

I also left three times today as I had to go back for the old passport and then back for the jeans drying on the radiator. Embarking on another Helen and A adventure to Luxembourg later today. He he.

Castles, pretty villages and some more castles. Can't wait!

Good Weekend to all. Appreciate it as it's the last one before those blasted Olympics start. Then life really will be disrupted.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dodging ducks, dogs and small people. The Segway Edition.

The Segway Experience

Oh dear Lord. Helen on a Segway. Two words sum up this experience perfectly: Stressful and Scary.

I'd bought A the Segway experience as part of his Christmas present and seven months later we were finally ready to embark. From Reading it was only a short train journey to the mythical Winnersh, which we felt was missing a vowel (winnerish) and found it difficult to remember the name of. We ended up on one of those lovely local trains, full of stations and places you've never heard of, including the mysterious Winnersh Triangle (yes Winnersh was big enough to have two stations). Perhaps that is the place where trains disappear without a trace?????? Though we managed to go straight through so maybe not.

Ah, walking through suburbia.

With some excellent written instructions including, 'take the path with the wooden snail and cross the bridge', I navigated us to the Dinton Pastures Country Park. It was like Orienteering, without the map. Ha ha.
Actually, I think I would have been much better at Orienteering if it was following written instructions instead of attempting to navigate myself to a pink circle, whilst following contours and other geographical features. I definitely respond better to the written word.
It's my fing innit. (In the style of Daniel Beddingfield from bo Selecta) (About three people will actually get this.)

Anyhoo, we made it to the activitiy centre of Dinton Pastures Country Park and waited for our instructor. It was quite cool actually, they had kayak's and canoeing and sailing and climbing walls and stuff. There were loads of people getting involved. Nice.

I kept getting the giggles as all I could think about was Gob from Arrested Development, who just appeared on a segway in so many scenes. He he. Giggling and control of segway are not conducive. Fact!

Look at me in my safety gear.......Looking good in helmet, high vis vest and gloves (which I put on the wrong way round at first......remedial!)


We had a practice first on this little course, going round a circuit, up and down inclines and over uneven ground and if you watch the video attached to this, you will see the speed demon herself. Helen 'Segway' Richards, beautifully edited on imovies by A....of course.

I was fine on the course, after a somewhat shaky start but then he unleashed us on the world. (And by the World, I mean the unlucky general public that happened to be in the park at that time.) That's when it became stressful and scary. It wasn't just my life in danger anymore, it was other people's. He may have joked about running over ducks and dogs and small children, but for me it was a big risk. It was no joke.

The first hurdle was a bridge. I was fine, it was just coming off the other end when I was going way too fast and I took the corner like a crazy person. (You feel like you're going so fast, like no one would ever catch you, but the top speed was 7mph, 6.5mph on mine. Not sure why he didn't trust me with the extra 0.5 but I'm glad he didn't. 6.5 was quite enough.) Then I somehow lost control, ended up at top speed and when you reach the capped speed the foot board tilts and then it's really hard to keep control again. So this happens and I'm right at the back and I lose control and start going so fast that I overtake A and I can't stop and there's a woman in a wheelchair coming towards me and AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

A is saying just pull back, lean back and I'm screaming I can't I can't. Thank God no one was videoing that. Would have gone viral in about fifteen minutes. After that A stayed behind me and every so often it would happen again. I would reach the top speed, the board would tilt and no matter how much I leaned back I couldn't get it to slow down. I kept screaming 'Babe. It's doing it again. It's doing it again.' To which I got no reply or advice. (apparently he couldn't hear me.......)

We stopped for photos and the instructor immediately came to me to see if I was alright. Yeah that's it go to the runt of the litter. We took some photos in our couples by the duck pond.


Then came more trials and tribulations in the form of a steep-ish hill, with a lake on one side, two super narrow bridges and many obstacles to avoid, such as small people, dogs, buggies, trees and fences. I had a couple of close calls but nothing I couldn't handle by screaming and then just avoiding said obstacle. I actually perform quite well under pressure, though I don't think it's something I would want to repeat.

Stressful and scary definitely sum it up nicely. When you get off at the end, your feet feel really weird and painful, like you used all these teeny muscles you didn't even know you had.

I would have been much happier staying on the practice ground the whole time, just going round and round and round. No ducks to dodge, no fear of death. But I did it. I got around in one piece and most importantly so did the general public. I don't think I've been so glad for something to end though, since my surgery last Tuesday. I was more than happy to give the thing back. Bye bye Segway. No more Segway for Helen.

Definitely an experience and more confident people than I would have a great time. If you're a panicker like me then I would probably say.....try something else. Maybe knitting or....writing. Much less people or expensive equipment to harm. He he.

Enjoy the video! It's a good job I don't mind taking the piss out of myself.

Have a great week everyone.