Bring it

It may surprise you to know that I am quite a sentimental kind of person. I can’t let a festive season pass without viewing (preferably on multiple occasions) ‘It’s a Wonderful Life‘ and there’s a Dire Straits album that was oddly slotted into my teens that will reduce me to tears if heard unexpectedly. There’s a ridiculously large box of child-related paraphernalia that I cannot bring myself to cull and I live in genuine fear that Posh and Becks will break up. But nothing brings on self indulgent melancholy like good ol’ Autumn. I’ve been wandering around for the last few weeks fairly misty eyed over the turning leaves, the chill in the air, the darker nights and the mellowing of the light (although this morning, against my better judgement and for reasons I am unable to articulate, I tried a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I was almost cured of Autumn Love right there and then. Yikes).

Earlier this month was the two year annualversay of our move to Switzerland, further impetus for reflection. This year I celebrated by making good on my FOMO. A few months ago, at the start of summer, Tim had climbed Mt Pilatus with some colleagues. I was hideously (cough childishly) jealous and, on Motsy’s urging, decided to give it a go myself. Despite having nowhere near the level of fitness required to scale the 2,128m mountain, it turns out I’ll do anything to get a morning away from the brats. A friend and I took it on, and after almost four hours of solid upwards hit the peak. Although the nicest day of a bad bunch, the mountain was still covered in heavy fog as we climbed. It made for poor visibility but given the scrambley nature of the path we took and my fear of heights, it was possibly for the best. Tim and said brats met us afterwards for a grill, where we cheersed to two years well spent (and it’s lucky arms are used for cheers-ing, as lord knows my legs were not up for anything much after that hike).

The last two years have gone swiftly. Theodore – who of course wasn’t even remotely on our agenda at the time – is now the age that Addie was when we moved here. In those early days, we looked around at childcare options and found that a lot of the playgroups were only accessible for ‘older’ kids – starting at about three years. I didn’t think too much more of it until it hit me a few weeks ago that, completely obviously but also somehow impossibly, my little daughter is now almost three. The horror of this discovery was counterbalanced somewhat by the parallel realisation: I can offload her to spielgruppe! And to spielgruppe she went: Swiss style.

Waldspielgruppe is forest playgroup, where the kids toddle off to the woods for the afternoon. They forage for wood, build a fire and play with knives, cook and eat cervelat (a sausage that Tim and I liken to vegemite: divine if you grow up eating it but absolutely vile if introduced to it later in life), and generally have a fabulous mucky time. Addie had her induction last week so Teddles and went along for the ride, but she starts solo this Friday and could not be more excited. It’s both thrilling and heartbreaking to see how grown up she is, and to watch her chatting to the leader and the other children in a language I can barely understand made me grateful once again for the opportunity we’re getting here.

To capitalise on her new skills – and to marvel at the newly fallen snow and the gradually changing foliage – we took a wee family hike yesterday. We went to Elm, about an hour and a half from Luzern, took a quick cable car up the mountain and did the Giant’s Playground walk. Our surly looking little bear has RBF, like his sister before him, but was actually very happy to be out on his papa’s back.

It is ludicrously easy to get outdoors here. Swiss efficiency is astounding. Cable cars take you to seemingly inaccessible peaks, where there are nearly always comfortable places to sit and rest, family friendly walking tracks to follow, and fireplaces – stocked with fire wood – to grill your lunch. This walk was only just over 2ks, a perfect distance for the littlest walker, and had an activity site every few hundred metres which was just enough to bribe inspire little Addie along.

We stopped for lunch where Addie abandoned all waldspielgruppe learnings, leaving the fire-building duties to the lads in the family, instead joining her mama in a far superior pastime: salami and cheese consumption.

Lunch consumed, we continued the loop trail along – marvelling at mushrooms (and someone’s Sporty Suit) and as always the ridiculous view. We get out and hike a fair bit, but this was the first trip that we felt was well executed. Planning and timing went without a hitch, the walk was perfect for our family, and our grill game was strong. As we made our way back to the cable car (and the massive outdoor trampoline area that was a sure fire Addie approved activity) we were, I confess, fairly self congratulatory.

Although Tim’s contract here is permanent and has no formal end date, we’d always had in our heads that two years was the time we’d commit to staying. Almost as soon as we’d jumped off the plane we figured we’d be staying longer than that, given how much exploring there was to be done. We have a long and lovely trip to Australia planned over Christmas, so we’ll see how much good food, coffee and weather influences us, but it’s hard to imagine leaving here any time soon. I mean:

Besides, if we’ve only started to nail our hiking game after two years, imagine how we’ll bring it next summer.

Eat all the cheese

As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, one of the main reasons we don’t feel terribly homesick here is the number of visitors – family, old friends, and sometimes friends-of-friends and acquaintances – that swing by to visit us (it could also be related to the import level quantities of vegemite I have stashed in the cupboard for daily consumption). One of Tim’s oldest friends is currently with us. They go back close to two decades: Jimmy was the first housemate Tim ever had after leaving home, and part of the link to how we met. The few summer days we’ve been able to spend together have been a (beery and cheesy) treat. Tim, Jimmy and our girl hit the mountains yesterday to get some Alpen views, find some farm cheese (so many different types! all so delicious!) and, bizarrely, eat soup with a rock placed proudly in the centre of the bowl, for reasons unknown.

I took the next shift, sipping sunset wines on the lake as Jimmy purchased his cigarettes at the casino. Much to his amusement, he (dressed in casual tourist attire) was offered the cigarettes on a silver platter, opened and ready to smoke, by a fully tuxedoed butler who also offered him the choice of four languages in which to discuss the lighting of said durry.

Today is Swiss National Day, the day on which the foundation of the Swiss Confederacy is celebrated. Three Cantons originally swore the oath of confederation, and at the rough point where this occurred one can spend the day listening to speeches and celebrating. Given our Swiss German remains not up to scratch, and my love of breakfast is deep, we opted for another Swiss National Day tradition: the Farm Brunch.

An increasingly popular tradition, the brunches were an initiative to support local smallholdings and encourage people from towns to better understand what farmers do. We took a short bus ride out of town, after which we followed the signs (and fellow brunchers) under the watchful eye of Mount Pilatus to our farm.

A gorgeous morning for a walk, we followed the country path up the side of the hill (the very mild hill in the snaps, not the massive ol’ mountain), working up our appetites.

Our hosts farmed Angus beef and grew an apple orchard. Brunch was a huge spread of local cheeses and meats, Bircher muesli, to-die-for apple juice freshly pressed from their own orchard, and rösti with bacon and egg. (While I had no complaints, I had promised the little Swiss Miss that she could have ‘sausases’, her third favourite food after cake and ice-cream. Happily the abundance of small, sweet bread rolls adorned with the Swiss flag distracted her from otherwise certain sausage related meltdown).

There were over one hundred of us in attendance, and while we opted not to stay to sample the local wine it felt like there was quite a party in the making. We wandered home along the lake, past the local-wine-producing vineyards, and through lovely farmland (in a vain attempt to get two hot and bothered littles to sleep. I assumed my constant dull narrative of ‘look! cows! ooh, a tractor!’ would have been enough to send them off, but apparently not).

The festivities continue this evening, with an abundance of fireworks due to be deployed later tonight. We have our eye on ‘The Big Swiss’, a mean looking rocket type cracker available in a tent that has popped up around the corner from our house purely for the sale of all things pyrotechnical. But of course, the number one priority is to continue on Operation Eat All The Cheese, which I reckon is a totally appropriate celebration of this wonderful country.

For now

It is the great irony of my current situation that my move to the other side of the planet, giving me access to so many new and exciting countries and experiences, is actually the most insular and enclosed period of my life. I can’t be sure that it wouldn’t be the same if I had remained in Australia – young children play a significant part in this, as you can imagine – but despite the world on our doorstep I have never felt so encapsulated, been so contained.

A lot of the feminist literature I pretended to study at university (preferring instead to focus on happy hour) spoke about women being identified as the other, their domain being the home, their interests curtailed to that of the private, the domestic. I was born well after this awakening – that this had to be named and identified made little sense to me at the time. My understanding of and interest in feminism was more brutish: down with the patriarchy! equal pay please! my body is my own! While such sentiments remain legitimate (and still somewhat crude), it’s now the rumblings, the stirring, the collective uprising against the domicile as women’s domain that interests me more. Those generations of women before me, bubbling away until the quiet frustration and fury became no longer quiet.

A quick caveat: the situation in which I find of myself is, I think, largely of my own making. There are some external barriers – I’ve found it hard to find work here, and this combined with the costs of living here and social set up make it more practical for me to manage our family. However outside of that, I am well educated, I live in an age of amazing technology, and my partner is nothing but supportive of any action I wish to take.

Nonetheless, I find myself identifying with this image of the woman trapped within the home. It’s a big old tumble of frustration, boredom, exhaustion, isolation. I was going to liken it to a tangled ball of laundry but really, that’s just too terribly on point. Juxtaposed with this is how fortunate I am: a lovely happy and healthy family, plenty of time to spend with them, a beautiful and safe city in which to live, a continent we’re fortunate enough to be able to explore. Despite this admittedly ridiculously wonderful scenario, I find myself feeling at times trapped and at others defeated, and because of it I feel ungrateful and unwarranted in expressing any discontent.

It is in part the relentless – and only predictable in its unpredictability – lack of sleep. A tired old complaint, if you’ll excuse the pun, but one that is infiltrating everything at the moment. Then there’s the bubble of Hausfrauing – any available energy is spent inadequately attempting to stay on top of the never ending chore cycle (cook, eat, clean, repeat) (everything in my life is currently slightly sticky due to those two brats). There’s a distinct lack of contact with anything outside of families and children. My main relationships here have been forged through our children, and I am exceedingly grateful for them for numerous reasons. However, I frequently find the tedium of my own conversation (toilet training! room sharing! she calls them ‘rainbrellas’!) grating, formulaic, caricatured.

A friend asked me, fairly recently, whether I get time to myself. I do – quite a lot, really. I spend it sleeping when I can, reading (novels of the comforting and familiar variety; for me, trashy crime always), watching assorted television of an evening while slogging away at a lengthy and poorly considered craft project, drinking wine, absently flicking through social media. All of these extend the insular nature of my existence. They are also completely within my own control. What I failed to understand was that she was really asking about the quality of the alone time I have, how I use it. Does it nourish me, connect me to anything, build something?

The difference between my situation and that of my feminist predecessors is of course that there was little choice for them. Society unquestioningly and inflexibly enforced their capture within the home and the web of their families; that same society against which they chose to uprise and challenge. While it would be simple for me to use this narrative, I find the my truth a little more nuanced (although no doubt theirs was too, but that was perhaps part of the reason their oppression continued for centuries). To what extent is the time of my life the cause, or a significant contributor, to this? My personality, motivations and inclinations? The old school nature of Switzerland in particular, compounded by my inability – still – to speak the language? Or is this the nature of – I don’t want to use the word oppression, because I am anything but oppressed – containment, perhaps? But then who, if not me, is doing the containing?

I don’t have any resolution of these thoughts and frustrations currently flitting around in my head. And since my children are both asleep and there is a layer of lunch-related muck on the floor, a dinner to prepare that will in the near future be added to said floor muck, only a few chapters left in my crappy novel, and a slippery dip to visit, they will not be resolved any time soon. Thus my cycle continues for now.

(Also, I am really, really enjoying that crappy book.)

The Moody Schwarzwald

In a much anticipated visit – not least by Addie, who despite not knowing the meaning of the word banged on about ‘my cousins’ for days prior to their arrival – Tim’s sister, her husband and their two adorable boys arrived in Luzern (after many a transit mishap, including an impromptu visit to Bern) a couple of weeks ago. The Moody family were treated to our usual ‘Willkommen in der Schweiz’ schtick: raclette, chocolate, my (mostly plagiarised and yet still disturbingly sketchy) tour of the town. We grilled cervelat on Mount Pilatus, visited Adelaide’s beloved marble rollercoaster at a nearby glass factory, swam in the lake, and celebrated our nephews’ belated birthdays in little boy heaven: the Museum of Transport. We also shamelessly attempted to force an interest in Switzerland through chocolate-rewarded games, and as a result many tourismo-tastic times were had (which basically means I ate heaps of chocolate too. Only to support the children, of course). Little Theodore has now met half of his Aunties, and was accordingly delighted.

Moody's Black Forest-004Unfortunately, since not all of us can HausFrau, Tim was travelling for work during the bulk of their Swiss visit. To make amends we booked a long weekend in the Black Forest to let the cousins run wild and the siblings catch up over brews aplenty. We stayed in an alleged farm stay which turned out to be a guest house sporting some velveteen rabbits (i.e. stuffed toys), a motley crew of guinea pigs and a lone immobile goat.

Tim was delighted to see some deers grazing through the window on our first night but was sadly disappointed come the harsh light of day.Moody's Black Forest-272We had naively assumed that travelling with four children would somehow be easier – shared adulting, perhaps some lovely cousin play time and plenty of sunny relaxation. While it was a wonderful getaway, I would not recommend holidaying with two two year olds if you have a choice in the matter. Women scorned be damned; hell hath no fury like two toddlers refused whatever it is they obscurely want. Addie and Arlo were at times adorable but primarily the three months between them was like a red flag to the crankiest of bulls. Of course, Arlo committed the most dreadful of sins. My little tattle tale would run to me routinely and say in indignant tones ‘Mummy, Arlo talked to me’.

Moody's Black Forest-245

In an effort to burn off their steam (and some of the torte for which the region is famous), we took advantage of the forest’s many little trails and embarked on a few nature walks (thanks, Peppa Pig and family for making these acceptable). Our little adventure crew tackled a path built in the wake of an earthquake fifteen years previously, showing the natural regrowth of the area as well as sweeping views of the forest.

I’m always interested in the link between the environment of a place and its narrative; the Black Forest easily lent itself to the images conjured by the Brothers Grimm with wicked witches lurking, lost children and tricks aplenty. We discussed this as we employed some of Hansel and Gretel’s wood-trecking tactics, except breadcrumbs were replaced by Gummy Bears and frankly we were bribing our brats to keep moving.

And between you and me, if there actually was a candy house on the horizon, there were times that weekend I’d have encouraged my terror to run into it.

Still, our little explorers enjoyed their cousin time, scavenging for treasures and, of course, the chocolates.

And we enjoyed the long overdue catch up with Team Moody in the spectacular Schwarzwald, where nobody can hear two year olds screaming.

(Freaky but fun) Fasnacht

This is Tim’s story, really. I’ve been a ([largely] supportive, amused, bemused and frequently jealous) bystander throughout the experience. It started after last year’s Fasnacht, when an always-enthusiastic Tim got chatting to colleagues at his office about the festival. It turned out one of them plays trumpet in a local Guggenmusik band. Tim is also a trumpeter, and it was suggested that he might be able to play along in the festival the following year.

Firstly, the band had to agree he could join. Although some members come from slightly further afield, the majority are Luzerners and certainly there were no other foreigners. He then had to audition, something which inspired more than a few nerves as it had been many years since he had picked up his horn. He left, trumpet strapped to his back as he cycled to the bunker where the band rehearsed, while I waited at home nervously on his behalf. The hours passed and eventually I went to sleep. He rolled in well after 2am reeking of beer and cigars and declared the audition a success despite having not played a note. Turns out as long as he could booze with them, the band were down with the foreigner joining.

Rehearsals started in earnest last September, held weekly. The first few sessions had Tim feeling a little glum: there was no music as everyone played by ear, the names of the traditional tunes were long forgotten, and the conversing and instruction was all in Swiss German. However as the weeks went by it started falling into place and he would come home from practice with increasing enthusiasm as his skills grew (other than the Swiss German. Still haven’t even remotely nailed that). My nerves increased in line with my due date – there was no mobile reception in that bunker – but little Teddy didn’t interrupt his father’s hobby and was rewarded with the band filming a tri-language rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to welcome him, and celebrate his sister’s birthday.

The costume was the next hurdle. The band had a Venetian theme and he needed both a coherent outfit as well as the traditional style of Fasnacht mask. The costume was sourced at a local Fasnacht speciality store, the staff happily knowing Tim’s band’s theme and being able to ensure he wasn’t out of place. The band’s conductor makes masks, and Tim had several fittings of the sculpted fibreglass headpiece, choosing eye colour, final touches and hair style (which I somewhat cruelly mocked, given his current choice is ‘bald’). The finished mask arrived about two weeks before the festival and sat in pride of place in our living room, prompting Addie to wander around declaring ‘Daddy’s mask’s scary‘ on a regular basis. To be honest, I couldn’t argue.

Finally, the week prior to lent arrived and with it, the festival. The schedule for Fasnacht is gruelling. Starting on Dirty Thursday, Tim played from the official cannon shot at 5am through till one the following morning, with similar shifts again on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. His group follows the tradition of the early Fasnacht bands, marching the catacombe-like streets of the Luzern Altstadt playing, and popping into local restaurants to serenade diners with their tunes.

Marching the cobbled, bustling streets of the city while trumpeting in an oversized mask is, apparently, tricky business.

Luckily, the rest of the band were old hands and made sure Tim was well-fuelled for the task.

Let’s drop the euphemism:  by well-fuelled of course I mean drunk. In between playing sessions they hung out at the band’s stand which converted into a bar. The day started with beers, progressed through wine to gin and tonics, and then when someone needed a pick-me-up, espresso grappa shots. It was little wonder their audition process was so exacting.

Tim’s dad had travelled from Australia for the festival, having been here last year and falling for its bawdy charm. Himself a trumpet player (it’s genetic, clearly) Mike became the band’s groupie at first and then joined them on the final few days as an honorary ring-in, making his trip quite the experience. I confess that as much as I love my two littles, I also love festivals and day drinking, and holding the fort while the lads had a ball was at times hard. Luckily, the kids and I made it down a few times to experience the hullaballoo.

Fasnacht was weird and wild and the streets were pumping throughout the day and night (and provided me with some good ‘here’s what happens if you don’t eat your vegetables’ material).

And of course, I did my best to make up for lost party time.dsc_8952In a country where we’d been warned the locals were not particularly welcoming, and that it would be hard to make meaningful Swiss connections, Tim feels so fortunate to have shared this crazy experience with a bunch of people who he now calls friends (or at the very least, epic drinking buddies). The hospitality was extended to me and the kids as well as Tim’s dad, making a week that will be remembered for years to come (even if said memory is sightly beer and grappa hazy).

(Also, that’s our baby’s rattle Tim’s a-shaking there. Nothing but the best instruments for our family.)

The first month

We’ve survived the first month. The little guy is currently snoozing in the weak snow-flickering light, although you wouldn’t know it from the sounds erupting from him. I’d forgotten how disproportionate to their size is the noise a baby makes (and how amusing. So much gas is never not funny). I’ve done a day and a half sans Tim – he went back to work yesterday – and thus far the casualty count is limited to burp cloths. There’s still another half day before he gets home, though, so please don’t consider me cocky.

As many people advised before our Teddly’s arrival, it’s easier the second time around. I’m not as nervous, edgy, scared I’ll break or ruin him (or if I do, he can moan about it with his sister on family holidays to come). Practically, things are working better: feeding, anti-Houdini swaddling techniques, knowing to tag team. We’re more confident as parents, and our nightly game plan sessions are much tighter and have been far more successful than the surreal, exhausting early weeks with Addie. It ain’t perfect (surely it’s not asking too much for a four week old to sleep for, say, twelve hours straight?), but it’s working.

We’re all dancing the newborn dance, of course. Ads has been wonderful. She chooses his clothes (she had them both adorably wearing owl-themed outfits yesterday), laughs hysterically at any and all of his bodily functions, and says ‘hey miiiiiiister’ in manner soothing when he cries. Naturally it’s not all easy sailing – her terrible twoness has escalated and her long suffering father is in her bad books far more than deserved, but generally it’s been lovely to watch her become the title of her second favourite book: a Big Sister (her first favourite? Everybody Poos. Fine literature is another joy I shall forever associate with parenthood).

Motsy’s holidays – four heavenly weeks! – were slow and cosy, but we managed to wander around snow covered Luzern nonetheless: to play in frosted-over parks, choose his baroque-themed Fasnacht costume, toboggan at the lake and, one glorious night, cycle to the Neustadt for a decadent dinner sans bambinis (with much thanks to their visiting Gra). For a moment, jumping on our bikes, dressed up and filled with anticipation for the evening ahead, felt like a return to the early days of our relationship where we’d cycle off to dinner or a drink, carefree and jubilant. (It then started snowing in time for the cycle home, and we started looking at our watches and counting the hours of precious sleep we’d get if we left immediately, and thus the spell was broken).

And I’m learning, clumsily, how to juggle our wee family of four. There was a fairly botched walk to kita this morning – when will I learn to check the weather, and thus avoid striding out into heavy snow thoroughly unprepared? – and a rather manic grocery store outing yesterday, but otherwise the feeding and sleeping and tea cup drawing routine is slowly becoming my new normal. That, and trying to keep our offspring alive and (largely) unharmed for five more hours until their father’s return.

And then, we were four

I write this on a foggy winter’s afternoon at my kitchen table. I’m not entirely sure, even when I stop to think, what day it is. I am wearing  – still, sadly – maternity jeans and shirt, not because I remain pregnant but because disappointingly I have not instantly lost the twenty odd kilos I gained over the last nine months. I am also, bizarrely and humiliatingly (and admittedly amusingly), wearing a pair of hospital issue stretchy white underpants with the crotch cut out of them, my arms thrust through the leg holes, as a crop top of sorts. Into this I’ve shoved two ice packs that are regularly swapped out – at my midwife’s instance – with cabbage leaves and this weird tigerbalm-scented paste called Pasta Boli (not the kind you eat, she helpfully advised). Birth itself is of course undignified, but it feels like it’s nothing on these early weeks of motherhood.

However! Our boy is here! Little Theodore Winton arrived precisely on his due date, endearing him forever to his prompt mother’s heart. His birth was almost the opposite of my experience with his sister; gory details aside, this time was far easier and much less traumatic. The most surprising aspect of the birthing procedure was the mingling of alternative medical practices with the more standard delivery process. At various times I was fed different homeopathic concoctions, assorted aromatherapy treatment was pumped through the room depending on my current state, and I was given acupuncture towards the end of labour itself. I’m finding the same with my midwife – there’s a surprising focus on alternate options and traditional practices; and to be fair, they appear to have worked. I had assumed that the seemingly clinical, straight-and-narrow Swiss would not be so into alternate treatment options, but on reflection maybe it makes more sense that a comprehensive and thorough approach to healthcare is taken rather than the more linear one we have at home.

We left the hospital six hours after little Teddy was born. I’d not even contemplated doing this prior, but in the absence of a family room and due to the smoothness of the birth we decided we’d be happier heading home. We were back in time for a patchy night’s sleep and to wake our little miss on her birthday, the highlight of which was hearing her say ‘niiiiiiice’ when she saw her new brother.

We hosted Swissmas again this year, with the life savers that are my bestie and Tim’s sister and bro-in-law, who kept us not only alive but alarmingly well fed and watered during our first week as parents of two. I’d thoroughly recommend recruiting them if you ever wish to extend your family and still feel like a human being. There was raclette, a life-threatening glühwein maker, a ridiculous amount of gifts (Ads went from not knowing what a present was to demanding to open all of them in about two minutes flat), lots of champagne, many tasty treats from home, and a few not-so-silent nights.

Now, we’re in that no-man’s-land between Christmas and New Year, which is only compounded with the haziness of a newborn (and the sick resident two year old, just to keep us on our toes). We’ve a week or so before Tim’s mum arrives, during which we’re tentatively feeling our way as a family of four (or eight, if you include Peppa Pig and her fambam, who I confess are making fairly regular visits to the Purler household), capitalising on the frozen meals I feverishly prepared prior to his arrival, and enjoying being wrapped in the newborn cocoon. Right now, though, both bambinis are asleep, so we’re indulging in a cheeky wine and leftover Christmas cheese platter (possibly with a mint slice chaser). And cabbage leaves.

Twelve months later…

My summer to-do list wasn’t particularly ambitious this year, which is just as well as only about a third of it has been ticked off. While I’m not entirely giving up on the season I have a feeling we’ve seen the back of it for the year, and I’m prepared to let the rest of the list slide until next year. Happily, a few weekends ago the weather was lovely and we were kicking around at home, so we were able to tick off ‘walk the Luzern wall’.

Open only during the summer months the wall skirts the Alt Stadt of Luzern, providing lookout and protection for citizens back in the day. Now, it provides (fairly scary for a clumsy six months pregnant lady) steep stairs and chiming bells.

And, of course, stunning views across the city.

It was a lazy kind of day, enjoying the tourist buzz that late summer in Luzern brings. There was undoubtedly ice cream (not anything unusual; although beautiful, Luzern is also fairly culinarily conservative so pistachio is about as avant-garde as it gets), a stumbled-across farm cafe on the outskirts of town and some sprint training, in honour of the Olympics.

Last Saturday marked our one year annualversary of arriving in Switzerland. I remember, when I was quite small, visiting one of my great-grandmothers in her nursing home. She was sitting on her bed, crocheting small squares for a blanket, and offering us the large, chalky peppermints that I always associate with her. Being young and rude I asked her if she was bored all the time, just sitting around and knitting. She replied that every year of her life had gone faster and faster, and sitting around and knitting was about all she could manage to fit in any more. I couldn’t comprehend it at the time, but she was right – every year has flown by increasingly quickly, and this was no exception.

We’ve had a ball. We’ve met – exceeded, actually – our ‘go-away-once-a-month’ goal which has given us some amazing travel (cough eating) experiences. We’ve managed to settle here better than we’d expected – Tim at work and me as a Hausfrau, something I never thought I’d be doing (and much less enjoying…most of the time). There have been some pickles, sure (adjusting to the expense of Switzerland living has been a bit of a shock, my German remains horrific, and I’ve still not really mastered my recycling game), but overall it’s been a wonderful experience for our wee crew. Prior to coming, we’d mentally signed up to a minimum of two years here. If Nanna Graetz continues to be correct, that’ll be done and dusted before we know it. Guess I’d best dust off my knitting needles.

Snapshots

There are changes afoot, a shift in our daily gears. Maybe it is in part due to the deteriorating summer – the air is now chill in the mornings, the sun richer and mellow in the afternoons, the leaves starting to look towards the ground. The girl is off to kita – she’s doing her induction at the moment – and for the first time in her little life, and perhaps the most significant part of mine, we’ll be apart. My burgeoning belly is also a visual reminder of all that lies ahead, now impossible to forget or ignore. There are things from now – from this time before – that I want to remember, hang on to.

Her gangly frame, all limbs and enthusiasm, when she sits cuddled on my lap. Her little legs already dangle impossibly to my calves. Those same legs fearlessly climb, run, bruise, scrape, and one day – no doubt sooner than I expect it – won’t tangle with mine anymore.

The murmurs of the new baby; the whispers and wriggles and thumps, unexpected yet so familiar, a reminder that he’ll be with us so soon but until then, for this lovely last time, it’s just me and him.

The late summer lake afternoons, where she has learned to play by herself, fully absorbed in the movement of sand to water to bucket to hand (and, sigh, mouth). The occasional glance to me with a quick smile, the shimmering pride in her little face mirrored against the glassy water, the mountains, the sky.

The abandon with which she runs to her father when he returns home from work, her gasps of ‘Dada!’ shifting the focus of the evening. The giggles as the two of them play – way too energetically before bed time, but how can such a sweet sound be resisted? Her three ‘Swiss kisses’ as he leaves each morning, her cool, soft cheeks the sweetest of all gifts.

While the excitement for the next stage for our little family is mounting, it’s hard to imagine how we could be happier, fuller than we are now, to understand what this shift in our lives will bring. But life before her is unthinkable*, and even though it’s hard to predict how, there’s a comfort and security in knowing that in a few short months, these pre-fourth-Purler times will also become a distant, hazy, inconceivable memory.

*not strictly true. A sleep in every now and then wouldn’t go astray.

 

Rigi Tell Trail

After our week of cabin-fever-inducing summer downpours, the ol’ sun reappeared in spectacular fashion this weekend. Which was fortunate, as we’d planned our next installation of the Intentional Summer Challenge: to go on a quest. While the rest of the world seemed to be chasing Pokemon we were significantly less cool and opted instead to follow the historic path of William Tell, the great folk hero of central Switzerland.

My knowledge of Willhelm / Guillaume / Guglielmo / Guglielm Tell (depending on which of the four Swiss languages you favour) was limited. Of course I’d heard about the infamous ‘arrow through the apple’ tale, and the sort-of-related William Tell Overture, but that was my total background on the guy. As we’d chosen to hike a route that reflected the man’s own path, we figured it was time to brush up on a bit of Swisstory.

A legendary strong man, Alp-hiker and expert marksman, William Tell led the Swiss resistance to attempted Austrian domination in the 1300s. Arrested by the Austrians with his son, he was offered a challenge: to shoot an apple from his son’s head in a single attempt, or for them both to face execution. Tell pulled out two arrows and successfully shot the apple. His son was released but when asked why he drew two arrows, Tell replied that had he shot his son he intended to use the second arrow to kill Gessler, the leader of the Austrians. With this he was imprisoned, however en route to Küssnacht dungeon Tell escaped capture and ran cross country through the Alps. His captors followed, and Tell famously assassinated Gessler with the second arrow through a narrow stretch of road cut through large rocks. His act sparked a revolution which eventually led to the formation of the Swiss confederation.

Our hike commenced close to the top of the mountain at Rigi Kaltbad, and followed some of the path that Mr Tell ran as well as marking the point where the famous fatal arrow was shot. The walk itself covered about 12km, and apart from a few straight stretches was primarily downhill all the way to Küssnacht. There was definitely no running from our team, lumbered up with one bambini apiece, but there was plenty of Alp gazing from the top of Rigi across Lake Luzern out to Mount Pilatus on the crystal clear day.

We had teamed up with some friends to do the hike, and we slowly made our way down the sometimes precarious mountain path. We frequently passed people walking the opposite direction and admired their gumption, but after a few hours our knees were telling us that upwards may have been a better game plan. Happily, there were ample scenic distractions as well as the melodious bell ringing of the Swiss cows grazing on Alpine grass.

We stopped for a very Swiss lunch (würst! älpermagronen! anything else on the menu with an umlaut!) in a seemingly middle-of-nowhere farm restaurant. The kids played on swings and trampolines and looked at the ponies, no doubt much like William Tell must have done while he was on the run.

The final descent into Küssnacht town was tough; we’d been walking steadily downhill for about 4 hours and our joints were telling us all about it. So loudly, in fact, that we forgot to note the site of the final showdown between Tell and Gessler, instead fantasising about icy beers and cool lake swims.

Our quest completed, although perhaps not observed as formally as warranted, we hobbled into town and called it a day. A spectacular day, with beautiful views and better yet glorious sunshine throughout the entire walk. For me the trip will be marked by the achievement of another quest of sorts: my lass, after months of pestering on my behalf, finally spat out her first proper ‘Mama’. I have some concerns that it came right after she played with the afore mentioned ponies, but she’ll have to learn full sentences before I’ll acknowledge that particular request.