Saturday, 31 May 2008

Early bird

After feeling more than a bit lethargic on Friday, so I went to bed early and got up really early for a change (around 5.15). I don't usually do this on my free days, but I was ready for something different. I had a bite to eat for breakfast and then left to go on an early-morning walk. However, a rain shower started literally just as I left the flat, so I went back inside, had a shower myself, and then left the flat a bit later (around 6.45) when the shower had stopped. Here are a couple of impressions of my walk, including the "signature shot" from the vineyards (don't say I'm not original):

St. Jakob-Stadion as seen from Weil

While we're on a Euro 2008 theme, spot FC Basel's ground. Photo taken at 7.25 this morning.

Public viewing this, public viewing that..

Friday, 30 May 2008


Worth mentioning a new event in Weil's cultural calendar, the Rebblütenfest. The Rebblüte - the blossoming of the grape vines - invariably occurs at the end of May/beginning of June. I may go along on my own tomorrow afternoon and see what's going on. Local wineries from Weil and elsewhere are going to be setting up stall along the wine route from Altweil all the way to Ötlingen.

What a refreshing change

Took the 17.28 back to Basle from Zurich yesterday evening and chose to sit in the random second-class carriage situated at the rear of the train behind a series of first-class wagons. The train must have been standing in the sun all afternoon, as this air-conditioning-less carriage was like a furnace inside. Most people opened the window, however, and - shock horror - left them open for the whole duration of the journey. Not one whine from anyone about nasty draughts.

This was in stark contrast to the normal scene on the train I usually catch from Weil in the morning. No air conditioning either, but all windows firmly shut despite the fact that the temperature feels like 30C inside. A lot of people are even wearing coats, as if they're scared they may catch a cold. What is wrong with these people? It's a good job the train only takes a few minutes to reach Basle. I may try to open a window one morning and see what the reaction is. I suspect such move will not be greeted with universal approval.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Interesting article

I heard about this in the German media a couple of weeks ago, and it was inevitable it would reach the UK press sooner or later.


Spent the night in last night watching the Eurovision Song Contest on BBC1. I only watch it because of Terry Wogan's commentary. He came out with some classics again this year, especially during the "musical" interlude between the acts and the results of the voting.

Not many people in the UK ever took Eurovision that seriously, in the view of the voting which, in Wogan's words, "never ceases to amaze, astonish and amuse". However, now the doyen of Eurovision broadcasters is threatening to throw in the towel after what he believes to be "political voting" which has turned the competition into an even bigger farce than it already was. Eurovision is quickly turning into a play-thing of the old Eastern bloc countries, who generally cast the top votes among themselves, thus rendering the chances of any Western European participants winning in future very slim at best. My favourite ditty by far last night was the French entry, a controversial entry in France itself due to the fact that it was sung in English. It garnered 47 points compared to eventual winners Russia's 272 points, but that was no surprise. I missed the German and UK acts, but they came joint last with Poland on 14 points. Oh dear.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Champions of Europe

Apologies for going off-topic, but it would be remiss of me not to mention Manchester United's triumph in Moscow last night.

I had been prevaricating for a good week or so as to whether I should watch the match back at my local in Basle or with friends Stu and Kath plus a bunch of their friends in Zurich. The Zurich plan - which I eventually favoured - was to go to a gig by Newton Faulkner starting at 7 p.m. at the Mascotte theatre and then watch the final on the big screen at the same venue at 8.45. I would then stay over at Stu and Kath's after the game. The idea behind this would be that the concert might help to settle my nerves beforehand and that it would be easier in general given that I was working in Zurich again the following day anyway.

Now, I'd never heard of the aforementioned musician, but his gig was really good and I was suitably impressed and entertained. After his final song - a one-man cover version of Bohemian Rhapsody - the big screen dropped down about 5 minutes before kick-off.

I normally get quite nervous watching big matches involving United, but the music had mellowed me to a certain extent by the time this particular match began. United's free-flowing football and dominance of Chelsea in the first half settled my nerves even more - until Chelsea's undeserved equaliser at the stroke of half-time, that is. Throughout most of the second half, I was shaking my head and fearing the worse. Chelsea built up the pressure while United lost the initiative and reverted to the counter-attacking tactics they had adopted for most of the previous away knockout ties. However, despite a scare when Drogba and Lampard both hit the woodwork, Ferdinand and Vidic held firm in the centre of defence. Vidic was probably United's best player.

United were better in extra-time and could have (should have) won it, but Giggs stabbed at Evra's cross with the outside of his left peg instead of burying it.

As Stu and Kath would confirm, I was quite impassive during the shootout. Was too drained to react much when Chelsea's John Terry missed what would have been the deciding penalty, and then in the moment of victory my watch almost came off, so the final release was somewhat of a delayed reaction.

Anyway, I spoke to my Liverpool-supporting father yesterday evening. He crowed on something about United being lucky, conveniently forgetting to mention the fact that Chelsea's goal was the result of two spawny deflections. True, Chelsea were definitely the better side from minutes 46 to 90, but both teams had their chances and 1-1 was a fair result after 120 minutes.

The only downside to a momentous night was the bar turning the TV off as soon as the match was over. Cue frantic persuasion for them to put the screen back on, to no avail, and then the surreal experience of seeing United lift the cup on the revolving 80s disco ball above the dance floor.

Saturday, 17 May 2008


Bought my first ever laptop this morning! It's an HP. It may take a while I navigate my way round it, but I'm quite excited.

When I returned to my flat this morning, I could hear the strains of "When the saints come marching it" being played by a brass band on the Hauptstraße. No idea why, though it may have been some promotional stuff for Circus Knie who are currently stopping off in Weil for a few performances. I heard that the main attraction of the show is the human cannonball. An American called John Taylor flies some 200 kph in the air, apparently.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Currently playing a bit of catch-up with this blog after to my enforced hiatus of the last few weeks due to a dying computer, a long weekend with with my parents in northwest England, and then work commitments.

One good thing during this period has been the weather, which has been warm and bright. Everything is lush and green now, and the commuting to Zurich and back has become more enjoyable thanks to the lovely sunny views out of train windows. Some people like to open up their laptops and work on the train, but in the morning especially, I tend to either daydream or listen to some podcasts on my iPod. I seem to read a bit more on the way home though. If I had a laptop, I'm not sure whether I would want to take it on trains that often.

Anyway, here's the aforementioned lushness and greenness as depicted in a couple photos I took early in the morning above Weil last Saturday.
As soon as I got back to Weil in the late-afternoon of 6 May, I took my computer to the PC specialist shop situated opposite the Kaufring supermarket and explained the situation. Thankfully, the man there was able to rectify the problem within a couple of days, but said that the PC was making funny whirring noises and that I should think about replacing it if it gave me more trouble. At home the next day, I saved the essential contents of the entire hard drive on to my external hard drive - a process with took from morning till evening.

In the meantime, although the PC is working again, its cooling fan sometimes makes such a racket that I'm barely able to work on it. Thankfully, the noise has died down now this evening, but I'm definitely aiming to buy a laptop as a back-up system as soon as possible.

Anyway, on a lighter note, my trip back to Blighty was to mark my aunt's 60th birthday. Over 30 friends and relatives came together at the Clifton Arm's Hotel in Lytham on Sunday 4 May for lunch. The event was really enjoyable and it was genuinely great to catch up with so many people whom I hadn't seen for years and years. A real family reunion, it was.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Das Leben ist kein Wunschkonzert

This is my favourite German phrase at present. In the UK, a Wunschkonzert is normally a musical request programme, i.e. something along the lines of Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. In this context, the phrase means, "Life is anything but a picnic". And it's a phrase I've kept recalling to myself over the last few weeks.

Being freelance, but currently working part time until the end of June as a member of staff at a bank in Zurich three days a week, means that I'm commuting a lot at the moment. However, it also puts me in the happy position of not being overly obliged to work from home for other clients at least until July. With Euro 2008 taking up most of June in Basle, I definitely don't want to be stuck in my flat busting a gut over long weekends after having commuted to and from Zurich during the week. I did, however, make an exception on the final weekend in April, when I agreed to help out my former employer, bmp translations, at short notice. Given that the material I had to translate - a brochure about Basle - was interesting and would earn me an extra few bob, I set about working over the weekend on it. It literally took four days of sitting in front of the PC to knock up the translation, but I was more than satisfied with the end product when I emailed the text back to bmp late at night before commuting to Zurich the next day.

That afternoon in Zurich, Susan from bmp called me to say that the file I'd sent just contained funny symbols and assorted gobbledygook. She therefore asked me to resend the file when I got back that evening. No problem, I thought. Probably some gremlin which I could sort out when I returned home, and there was still time as the deadline wasn't until the next day anyway.

So, I got back home, switched the PC on, and... oh, what's that strange and loud noise it's making? I switched the PC off and tried to boot it up again. However, I was confronted with the following sinister-looking error message (a picture of which I thought I would keep for posterity):

Basically, the message gave me five options to choose from. I tried them all, but the PC simply wouldn't boot. All that would appear was a dark grey screen. A view into Windows oblivion, so to speak. I left the machine on overnight, but the same dark screen continued to stare at me when I switched the screen on the next morning.

Now, obviously, my nerves were a bit frayed at this point, and I'd hardly had any sleep when I woke up at around 5.30 the next morning. I'd been unable to resend my translation, plus the version of the translation I'd saved on to my external hard drive was only half-finished, since I'd forgotten to save the definitive version there. The only thing for it was to turn up at bmp's offices with the external hard drive first thing that morning and explain the situation. Of course, I apologised profusely. But to my relief, Susan took the news calmly and said it was just one of those things. She would have to translate the remainder of the brochure quickly that day and wrap up the job herself. I uploaded the unfinished version from the external hard drive, bid my farewells and rushed to Basel SBB to catch the train to Zurich, where I arrived an hour later than usual.

This drama cost me half of what I would have earned on the translation, and it was naturally frustrating that some of my work has gone to waste. However, my biggest worry was my PC. Given that I was working in Zurich and due to fly to the UK on 1 May, a public holiday, I wouldn't be able to do anything about the computer until I returned to Weil from the UK on the evening of 6 May. [To be continued..]