Saturday, 10 January 2009

All things must come to an end.

I'm going to be concentrating on my other blog from now on for the forseeable future.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Today is a holiday at the company where I work, but I had to get up early this morning anyway to go to the doctor's for my routine INR blood test. The reading today was 2.4, which is just where it needs to be, i.e. between 2 and 3. Could have done with an extra couple of hours' kip, but I'm up now, so I'd better do something useful. Like washing clothes, or something.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Year's Day walk

Got up rather late today...

Then I went for a walk to clear the cobwebs, and also took a few arty photos. Felt much better for it. This one - with industrial Basel in the background - won't make it on the tourist brochures, but that's why I like it.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The big freeze

Looks like it could be below freezing for a good few days from around the coming weekend onwards. Reminds me of my year abroad in Germersheim in Rheinland-Pfalz in 96/97 when January was virtually a whole month with temperatures below minus all the way through. Day and night.

Single of the Year

Right, I've made my decision, and it's a draw between three songs, though the first one is by Reamonn. What you would call an "Ohrwurm" in German. Very simple, very successful.
Spending a quiet New Year's Eve tonight. I sort of missed the boat as regards "Silvester" parties. My girl friend is snowboarding in Austria at the moment. I would have loved to have joined her and her friends, but I had to work till midday, and it takes at least seven hours to get to where she is. Thoeretically doable, but practically not.

After lunch today, I went to Pickwicks and had a few beers with some friends. That was a lot of fun, as I'd been looking forward to that "skool's out" feeling on NYE for a long time.. Friends at Pickwicks were all planning to return to the pub later tonight, but I have no energy for that. No worries, though. Did that make any sense?

Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, 28 December 2008


For a country that prides itself so much on its thoroughness and meticulousness, Germany has a blind spot when it comes to laws on smoking in public places. After years and plenty of chances to get it right, resultant anti-smoking legislation is proving ineffective.

When the state of Baden-Württemberg pushed through a law on 1 August 2007 immediately restricting smoking in bars, there was an audible whining and gnashing of teeth among publicans. Instead of regarding the new legislation as a chance to welcome people who previously were maybe discouraged from going out more often, the general tenor was that this would sound the death knell for many pubs and bars across the land. Admittedly, I can sympathise to a certain extent with owners of small Eckkneipen whose livings depend on clientele who enjoy a Pils and a cigarette and whose bars are too small to apply segregation between smokers and non-smokers. Following an amendment to the law in mid-2008 to allow bars with an area of 70m2 or less to operate as smokers' bars, these businesses are now allowed to continue as they were. However, all other bars must either be fully non-smoking or have clearly separated areas for smokers. Since there are no bars in Weil which fall into the "70m2" category, you would expect them all to apply the rule of law to the book. This is Germany, after all.


And I'll give you a couple of examples. After going on a walk on Boxing Day, my parents and I had a bite to eat in an establishment in Friedlingen. The restaurant in question had a smoker's and non-smoker's area. As none of us smoke, we entered the latter room. However, it soon became apparent that the smoking area wasn't properly segregated from our area. There was just a flimsy partition separating the two which remained open near the bar. Consequently, we didn't immediately smell the cigarette fumes being exhaled by the waitress and her friends opposite, but we did eventually inhale them. What's more, in order to access the toilets, we non-smokers had to walk through the smoking area. What a joke. Like the proverbial fig leaf.

Anti-smoking legislation in other countries is meant to protect bar workers as much as clientele from cigarette fumes. However, a different rule of thumb applies here, as it seems most publicans and bar staff smoke themselves. Sure, that's an over-generalisation, but as an outsider, you do get the impression that many publicans here have their own vested interest in actively encouraging smoking in their establishments. Take a certain pub in Weil (I'm naming no names) where people smoke despite the fact that doing so is illegal. I used to frequent the place, but after seeing the husband and wife team who run the place both smoking in full view of their customers, I am loathe to return there. They might as well apply to run the pub as a "smokers' club" and have done with it, as far as I'm concerned. Happily, I have more important things to worry about than to grass them up to the police. I just boycott them instead.

Smoking was banned in pubs in England a few years back, and apart from a few lone crusaders who defied the law at the beginning, the transition to smoke-less pubs has been pretty smooth. So, if we can do it, why can't the Germans?

And why can't the Swiss either? The inhabitants of the canton of Basel-Stadt recently voted in favour of smoke-free pubs and restaurant, but the powerful publicans' lobby in Basel has managed to put back the date the new law will come into effect, meaning that pubs won't be totally smoke-free until 1 April 2010, instead of 1 January 2009. What a joke.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Photo of the year

If I chose one photo which I feel sums up 2008 the best from my point of view, it would have to be this one. It was taken early in the the first half of the Euro 2008 match in Basel on 11 June between Switzerland and Turkey barely minutes before the one of the heaviest thunder storms I've experienced in recent times.

From a personal point of view, 2008 has been one of the most eventful years of my life. I started the year working as freelancer, my knee was operated on early in January, I worked in Zurich for four months, I subsequently decided to abort the freelance adventure in order to work in a proper "day job" again, I contracted deep-vein thrombosis in my lower left leg (this problem is still being treated), plus my social life took off to an extent I'd never even dreamed about only months previously.

I like the above photo because of its foreboding and - excuse the pun - electric atmosphere. I remember watching the match in question on television in my living room in Weil and noticing the big, black cloud that was looming from the north prior to kick-off. With the storm cell arriving from that direction, the rain hit us bit earlier. In fact, it was probably already pelting down outside in Weil when that photo was taken.

Looking back now, it brings back memories both specifically of the summer of 2008 and of the year as a whole, and the changes in both my professional and personal life. In other words, 2008 was a very turbulent year, and I don't necessarily mean that in a negative sense. Looking ahead to 2009, I would say I'm a lot happier than I was at the same time 12 months ago. Not that I was terribly unhappy back then, but just that things just seem clearer now. And I feel more fulfilled. Having said that, goodness knows what lies in store in 2009.
Another considerable amount of time has again passed since my last post. The Christmas rush was the culprit this time, not to mention a social life that's unexpectedly taken off in recent months. Oh how I yearn for weekends alone at home, doing nothing.. Well, not really, but it was nice last week to be able to wind down a bit over the last few days. My parents were here over Xmas - the second time they've spent the festive season with me here in Weil, though the first time since 2004. We didn't do much, but that was just fine. We ate well, had some good wine, went on afternoon strolls, chatted or just lounged on the sofa and watched telly.

After being here for a week, they've now gone home. Their flight back from Geneva to Blackpool was scheduled for take-off at 9.45 this morning. This meant they had to take the taxi at 4.15 a.m. to Basel SBB, from where they took the first train out at 4.57. They made their connection to Geneva Airport via Delémont without any problem and got to the airport at 7.55. As I write, I think they will probably already have landed in Blackpool.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Weekend in Walldorf

Went to Walldorf last weekend to visit friends John and Bérénice. After arriving at midday on the Saturday, we went together to watch FC Astoria Walldorf play VfL Kirchheim/Teck in the Oberliga Baden-Württemberg. The home side won 3-1, scoreline that doesn't quite reflect FCA's dominance of the match. A good time was had by all.

We then took the train to Ladenburg to take in the traditional Christmas market, before heading back to Walldorf for a couple of drinks later that evening. On top of the beer and mulled wine we'd had earlier on.. (Whoops)

The evening ended at John's old local, known unofficially by all of us as "Geoff's" - a place I've visited many a time over the last eight years or so. Geoff the Irish manager no longer runs the place. His estranged wife does instead. After handing over the reins - as it were - Geoff managed another hostelry nearby. However, that venture ended prematurely, and Geoff has gradually gone off the radar since. According to John, no one really knows where he is now and what he's doing. It's all a bit of a sad story, really.