Rainy old Sunday

Our dinner went smashingly, to the point where when we woke this morning and heard the rain outside we were relieved we could skip our planned hike and nurse our sorry heads inside on the couch, finishing the series we’re currently watching and potentially ordering a cheeky recovery pizza later in the day. However, our resident ten month old apparently doesn’t like Bosch and made it clear that staying indoors all day quietly was not on the cards.

It’s mushroom season here and I’ve heard of people hitting the forests to forage for delicious wild treats. Obviously, there’s a concern about eating poisonous mushies and to assist with this the Naturmuseum Luzern – the museum of natural history – offers an identification service. You take your loot in and they advise which goodies can be risottoed and which must be turfed. Given our sad state, foraging in the wet woods was out of the question but we cut to the end game and decided to head into the museum for the morning.

Lucerne was misty, grey and wet, and it was beautiful. The cobblestoned streets had a shimmer to them, and gorgeous silvery light danced around the lake. It still wasn’t as nice as our couch in our warm house, but the cold bite to the air helped brush the cobwebs away. That, and nearly being taken out by the Lucerne tourist train as we turned a tight corner in the Old Town.

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We traipsed around until we found the museum. Adelaide appears less than impressed with her call to leave the comforts of home (or maybe she’s embarrassed about being rugged up in pink baby ugg boots. But how could I not?).

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I’ve always loved natural history museums, and they’re usually my first port of call in any given city in inclement weather. I spent a lot of time in the one in Dublin, mostly in the thin narrow room that felt completely stuffed with…well, stuffed things. I’ve spent rainy holidays in the states and the UK lazily perusing the musty wares. Sydney’s is great – they do night time openings with a full bar as well as having an awesome kid’s area by day that I’ve taken the girl to, so she could crawl around and discover. I was excited to see what Lucerne’s held.

Wild boar, is what.

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We realised fairly early on that not being able to read German hinders our ability to learn about the installations (we will be starting lessons soon, but we had to wait until we knew where we’d live. Even once they do kick off, I suspect we won’t go from zero to understanding the Swiss ecosystem as explained by the museum immediately). Tim attempted some google translate (we tested it on our bills: his name comes up as Lord Timothy Tumble and mine is Woman Wendy Noble) and although that gave us laughs, it wasn’t so great for learning. Adelaide didn’t seem to mind though and crawled happily through the trees, fossils and stuffed birds.

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The museum is known for its insect collection, apparently one of the most significant in Europe. Surprisingly, given my irrational fear of nearly everything else, I’m not actually that freaked out by bugs (don’t get me wrong, I think they’re kinda gross and all but birds are definitely, unquestionably worse), and these were presented quite prettily. They’d added a surprise element by putting them behind panels you had to access with pass cards – it was like a big bug lucky dip. Some panels hid pretty butterflies, some freakily large cockroaches, and others spindly stick insects.

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Adelaide’s apparent interest has me concerned she’ll wind up like those weird insect guys in Silence of the Lambs.

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We wandered around for most of the morning, taking it in turns to view the collection and spot our girl climbing the stairs (up is fine and embraced enthusiastically. Down, not so much). Disappointingly, I didn’t see anyone saved in the nick of time from eating their potentially lethal mushroom haul, but we were happy with the characters we did meet.

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We had lunch in a cosy restaurant overlooking the lake. It would have been delightful except that Adelaide had decided she didn’t care for our choice of venue and Lord Tumble and I had to individually scoff our meals while the other managed Captain Screamalot outside in the rain. We made our way home through the local hills, thick with forest. We rose above the fog at one point, the town below barely visible due to cloud cover.

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We made it home in time to settle the baby and, finally, get our couch time (with a heavenly recovery gin). The pizza didn’t get a look in, but we did give these a go.

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Yeah, they’re little dancing people. They were like man-shaped flakes of polystyrene with some colour on them, but given our state we happily knocked them back. Also, I have to stop buying snacks simply because I think their names are amusing.

Helping the economy

Sadly, our days have been focused disproportionately on shopping and as such have been a total nightmare. The most successful outing was to Zurich earlier in the week during which I failed to bring my wallet, which should indicate how low the bar was set.

We need to purchase a bed before we move, which I assumed would be a simple and potentially enjoyable task. Fool! The beds are completely different sizes than all the linen we own, they have single mattresses (which is apparently a great thing), you need to purchase slats for each side individually and they are as complicated as circuit boards, each side has a weird independent tilting system, and all these variables are explained in Swiss German…gah. Adelaide had a meltdown today in the store we’ve visited three times this week and frankly, I was entirely supportive.

On top of that, we’ve been hanging at various supermarkets. We’re having our first guests (that aren’t my parents) over to dinner tomorrow night, and I confess I have culinary nerves. Like everyone in the post-chef-worshipping era, I enjoy cooking and take an interest in food (by which I mean, of course, that I’m a total glutton), but by no stretch of the imagination am I any sort of gourmand. I tend to try new recipes for guests and as a result have had my fair share of mishaps, but nothing that can’t be solved by the twin mantras ‘put an egg on it’ and ‘put nicecream on it’.

However, grocery shopping has been the biggest challenge in pulling it together. I’m still not certain – despite spending a disgraceful amount of time in the supermarket – what I’ll be able to find in terms of fresh produce, so the menu had to make a last minute change this afternoon. I’ve exchanged Adelaide for some lamb – meat is ferociously expensive here, and I’m hoping I’ll cook it well and won’t have to resort to using said egg. We also don’t have the pantry and utensil arsenal I’m used to – I’d taken for granted having a range of spices, sauces, spatulas and the like at my fingertips. The biggest pickle, though, has been the labelling. Everything is conveniently described in three languages; sadly, I am too ignorant to read any of them. Locating cornflour and baking powder became a five man task this afternoon and I’m very grateful to the staff and fellow shoppers for trying to interpret my hideous attempts at butchering their language.

Other than keeping the franc flowing, I am probably the only person ever to hope that their kid is teething – she has none yet, and I’m convinced she never will (if you have a business in baby dentures, please get in touch). She’s been grizzly and dribbly, and although that could just be her personality and hygiene practices I’m hoping fangs will emerge soon. If they ever do she could help us with the continuation of the Chip Challenge. Remember Light and Tangy? Add a fancy frenchy name and bam! here they are, straight from the 90s to Switzerland (we yummed them up nostalgically).

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My extensive shopping did assist in one area. There’s a Swiss seasoning called Aromat; we’d seen it around various restaurants and read about it prior to coming in several Swiss food articles. It’s hugely popular and apparently makes everything taste better…because it’s pretty much MSG in a brightly coloured shaker. It is also my new Swiss dinner party saviour in case things go hideously wrong: egg, nicecream and Aromat.

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The worst thing about The Great Chip Challenge is that it’s going to reveal, revoltingly, how many chips I am capable of eating (the best thing of course is that I get to eat said chips in the name of research). Let’s just pretend it’s all about international education and nothing to do with poor eating habits. And for the love of god, please nobody ask about candies.

The next out of the fryer is a Halloween treat, charmingly named Monster-Eyes. Why I chose this remains unclear. They had the texture of cheese and bacon balls and the flavour of dehydrated Campbell’s tinned tomato soup. The were hideous, but of course I should have known that. They, and too many glasses of crappy red wine (of which one glass was actually too many), were my dinner the other night because Tim was away and the baby had given crying her best effort yet (and also my body is a temple, clearly).

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The other chosen treat were named Diavolo, complete with dancing devil. These were, according to Hotel, great chips. Thick, flavoursome and crunchy and a massive hit of chilli…only problem is, I really don’t like chilli chips. This was probably for the best though as it forced me to eat slightly more nutritious food in his absence.

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We’ve had more luck with sweet treats – Tim brought home a Ragusa bar he’d been given at work the other day for me to taste. It was toasted hazelnuts covered in (essentially) nutella, and coated in ganache. Adelaide has just learned to clap (best trick ever) and I swear it was no coincidence that the skill emerged with the arrival of these bars of goodness in our house.

(Just for the record, we did actually eat vegetables last week as well. Honest.)

Local wanderings

The days passed quickly even with Tim away in Vienna. Earlier in the week, on our morning coffee stroll, I was struck by a glorious tree in the middle of town with stunning yellow foliage. Intending to return to take some snaps, I was shocked a few days later to see that there were no leaves left; the tree was a collection of motley sticks against the grey sky, slightly smudged with fog. It’s already colder than most Sydney winters and I am increasingly aware how pathetic my tolerance to bad weather is. We’re trying to live by the Scandanavian mantra: ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing’, but I suspect that might be bollocks.

These daily walks take us past all manner of curiosities. One of my faves are the numerous farm stalls. There are about half a dozen dotted around our area that I’ve seen, some in town and some on the roads circling us. Usually part of a small allotment, they generally sell eggs, apples, pears, quinces and sometimes (apparently delicious and unpasteurised) milk, rabbits and chickens. They all operate on the honesty system where you choose your goods and log your purchases in a wee book, taking any change you need. I’ve not actually purchased anything from them (mainly because I am a bit unclear on the log book lark) but I can’t resist going in and looking, and probably arousing suspicion of larceny most foul.

I also get a disproportionate amount of amusement out of the postal service, called The Post (in German, of course, Die Post). Without fail I think of Sideshow Bob’s tattoo: The Bart, The. Kills me every time. There are boxes dotted everywhere, including one down by the river, on one of the walking tracks. I like to think of someone penning an old school unrequited love letter amidst the gorgeous trees and then popping it in the mail (although, given the name of the post service maybe it’s an old school death threat instead).

This weekend was quiet; we had to do some furniture shopping which I can assure you is as wretchedly dull here as it is everywhere. On Sunday, happily, nearly all stores are closed so we decided to walk part of the way to Lucerne, and capture some of the fleeting Autumnal colours.

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All throughout the woods are little bird houses, of different shapes and sizes. On our stroll we counted over a dozen of them, nestled in the trees.

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Our village is surrounded by farmland. There are fields of corn, the afore mentioned apples, pears and quince trees, many cows and the odd horse. Tim whinnied and both our girl and the actual horse looked at him disdainfully.

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He had more luck demonstrating dandelion blowing.

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As we walked through this grove, we could actually hear the leaves falling around us, a sound neither of us are familiar with. They rained down thick, fast and golden.

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It’s easy to walk here – there are trails, it seems, between almost every village and there are always many people strolling and cycling along. This one took us through farmland and along the river to Gisikon-Root, a small town about five kilometres away.

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Our little passenger once again enjoyed the ride.

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We arrived in Lucerne and explored the festival. By explored, I mean we found a beer tent and ate two kinds of pork for lunch.

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Adelaide was happy with her blueberries, though.

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We then wandered around our neighbourhood-to-be; this park is about a block away from our new digs and is set on the banks of Lake Lucerne.

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We are getting increasingly excited – despite the woes of furniture shopping – about the impending move. Our temporary apartment has been fantastic but it feels exactly that: temporary. Although we’ve shuffled furniture around, hung the girl’s mobile (which, happily, my father reconstructed for her following relocation woes), and tried to acclimatise we don’t really feel settled as we know we will be up and moving again shortly. However, we’re trying to make the most of our wee town before we go; and with that in mind I am determined, honesty system confusion aside, to farm-stall-shop this week (I’ll hold off on penning death threats, though).

Swissnacks

Much like wine, I’ve never met a crunchy savoury snack I didn’t like so when some chip-loving friends in Australia (hi Rita and Dee!) suggested we try a bunch and report back, as you can imagine the arm that wasn’t holding my glass required a lot of twisting. There are several familiar snacks here (Pringles immediately come to mind) but there are also a whole bunch of new and potentially delicious treats to discover. I’m not expecting to meet the Swiss equivalent of the mighty cheese Twistie, but I’d happily settle for a Burger Ring or a Toob.

We were given the heads up prior to moving here that the range of foods – particularly herbs, spices and sauces – is quite different from what we’re used to. The Asian food influence we have in Australia is definitely (and sadly) lacking, and we have indeed noticed a difference in the availability of cooking staples. However, one spice that is available in abundance is paprika; even the local convenience store has about half a dozen different types. So when choosing our first chip to test run it seemed fitting that we’d go with a paprika flavoured number.

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Surprisingly, we found these to be super sweet; they had a slight smoky flavour at times but our general impression was that there wasn’t enough salty goodness balancing the sugar hit out. I am also assuming that the alarming orange hue was due to the paprika (although I am aware that they are chips, for god’s sake, so weird dusty orange colouring is par for the course)(um, also cheese Twisties are hardly a colour occurring in nature). They won’t make a repeat performance in our household but that did not stop us finishing them, of course.

(The Brot Chips Knoblauch also pictured are garlic bagel chips and exactly the same as all other garlic bagel chips I have eaten elsewhere, which is to say crispy and crunchy and delicious.)

Thunderstruck

Like all new cars, ours has – along with that excellent scent – the bluetooth function that links our phones automatically to the car sound system. For some reason, whenever we get in, both of our phones default to immediately playing particular songs. Tim’s is ‘All You Need Is Love‘, and although I didn’t even know I had it in my playlist, mine is ‘Thunderstruck‘. I don’t know what the opposite of dulcet is, but it was with such AC/DC tones that I made my way to my first English speaking mothers’ group.

Motsy’s away in Vienna for the week, and it was the first heavy fog we’ve had in our town this morning (I’ve heard it gets worse though – there’s tell of not being able to see an arm’s length away for several weeks in these parts). Nerves of driving in such conditions aside, I was determined to make it along. It was hard to remember to be scared as I drove the curving roads through misty forests, with gold and red leaves falling, heavy with dew (I know they were heavy and damp as they stubbornly refused to leave the windscreen when they landed).

Mothers’ groups, before one has a baby, have a really bad reputation. I had no intention of joining one, and it was only that I promised Tim I’d give it a go prior to rubbishing it completely that I went along to mine. I distinctly remember walking to the local health centre on a warm summer’s morning, Adelaide asleep in her pram and me hoping she’d not wake up or at least keep the crying to a minimum once we got there (I did not want to appear to be the mother who couldn’t even handle her own baby). I was excited but nervous – I’d not met people in a completely new context since uni, really (I don’t count work as you have fixed roles and as such it’s an easier social system to navigate). I’d also realised, six weeks in, that no matter how bad the group was I was going to need them – my days were long and frequently without adult conversation, and although (as you may have noticed) I can talk about her sleep forever, I was fairly sure my pre-baby friends couldn’t. I was prepared for a group of people with whom I had little in common, and also for some Judgey McJudgersons who would look down on everything I did with my girl.

I needn’t have worried. We had to go around the group and say what we hoped to get out of it – fairly early on, one of the mothers said ‘I’d just like to make some friends’. The rest of us, bleary eyed and still holding our babies awkwardly (mine probably crying), nodded in agreement and, it felt, relief. That vulnerability exposed and with it a basic social barrier broken, I struck mothers’ group gold: a group of lovely, relaxed and cake (cough wine) loving locals who were nothing like I had expected. I knew it would be one of the things I’d miss, but thanks to social media I still get to see snaps of the sweet little ones and their lovely mamas (and one father).

With this positive experience under my belt, I was determined to find a new group here. Thanks to the googles and our relocation people a group that meets weekly in Baar was discovered. Adelaide and I lumbered along to the meeting this morning, but this time without nerves (I did still hope she wouldn’t cry, though). It’s a group for English speaking mothers of kids less than one year old – at nearly ten months my Laideybird is one of the oldest there. There were half a dozen or so mothers: mostly English, one American and a couple I couldn’t quite place, and the babies ranged from eleven weeks to eleven months.

I loved being around the little ones, not least because it turns out I love babies (I really didn’t think I did, prior to having one, but as it happens I like all the babies, all the time) but also because my number one favourite topic could be explored at length with people who similarly never tire of it. I like to be able to look at younger babies and be reminded of how much she’s grown, and then look at the older ones and know that just around the corner she’ll be like them, that it’s not as static as it feels some days. It’s helpful to get tips and inside knowledge – local walking tracks, good cake venues and swimming classes for our little ones. Mostly, though, it’s reassuring to speak to other mothers who, even this side of the world, find their days are exactly the same and ultimately just want to make new friends too (and, I hope, have wines on the side).

Cuolm Sura Alpabzug

It would appear that I have become obsessed with the providers of the oft-mentioned cheese and chocolate: cows. I’d herd (that was actually a typo, but seems appropriate to leave it since we’re on the topic) about a Swiss tradition called Alpabzug, so as my folks were in town and we were in the moo-d (too far?) for a road trip, we decided to go and check it out.

Alpabzug occurs at the end of Autumn across the country, and many mountain towns hold their own event. After spending four months roaming the alps, feasting freely on delicious (I presume) mountain grass, the cows and other livestock are brought back down into the town to be kept safe under watchful eyes over the winter months. Alpabzug is the celebration of the return of the cows into the town, and is a procession featuring various animals, traditional farming apparatus and of course the cows themselves. The animals are decked out in ornamental bells and often flowers, and the cowherds wear traditional dress.

We decided to go to a town called Cuolm Sura (or Suracuolm, we’re not sure which – maps and the town itself actually made it no clearer, with both forms being used). We decided to make the most of our new wheels and set out on the two hour drive south east from Rotkreuz. It was a foggy, misty morning and as we drove the mountains and lakes ahead looked like papercuts, with different shades of white, blue and grey in jagged layers against the horizon. The road next to us was pure oil painting, though, with thick forests of deep greens and golds.

The road to the town became increasingly steep and narrow as we ascended the Alps. My knuckles became increasingly white as I gripped the car in fear as we drove on the wrong side of the road (for us, correct for our current country). Tim’s ears became increasingly sore as I kept asking him to slow the hell down.

Due to some excellent planning on my part, and thorough reading of all Alpabzug related information, we rocked up at the town we were supposed to be in a whopping four hours early (this was on top of hangovers after our first night out sans baby. You can imagine how impressed Tim was). Luckily, though, the fog had lifted and we were able to enjoy some stunning views.

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We contemplated a trip to the peak on the ski lift, but the car trip up the mountain was as close to death as I wanted to be that day.

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Death by dribble was also a possibility.

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We contemplated our options, and the beautiful alpine flora.

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Alpabzug Day0156 - 20151003We decided on an early lunch. A few precarious bends back down the mountain there was a wee town, and we found a friendly looking ‘we sell beer’ sign, so in we went. We tried some Swiss apple and elderflower cider, local prizewinning beer and feasted on mushrooms and venison. There was a playroom for the baby (although she showed more interest in raiding the liquor cart – that’s my girl) and the time passed merrily.

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The view from our table certainly helped.

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Feasting done, we went back up the hill to the Alpabzug. A few wines did a lot for my fears (and Tim’s ears) and I was far more relaxed as we ascended again.  We found the markets (and for some reason I look confused. Maybe because there was no wine stall).

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Or because of this skull feature.

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As we were wandering (confusedly), we heard some low mellow notes echo out across the town and turned to see a nonet (nine piece – I totally had to google that) of alphorns.

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The official parade had begun. A gentleman explained all about the rich history and tradition of the Alpabzug, and spoke about the town and its people and livestock. At least, that’s what I assume he spoke about as it was all in Swiss German.

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We heard a low dull clanging – from one of the many paths leading to the site came a group of bell ringers.

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They seemed fairly unamused; those bells looked heavy and the path was long. Following them, from another path behind a hill, we heard the tingle of much smaller bells. A herd of goats trotted through the town, with its herdsman keeping nearly all of them in line (one made a run for a spectator’s bag, but was foiled in the nick of time).

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Next up: kids. Total crowd pleaser with lots of ooh and aahs (I was still recovering from fear of the goat that broke free, so my sighs were of relief) (yeah, I’m pretty much scared of everything).

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Following this, there were several more groups of goats (apparently Cuolm Sura is primarily a goat farming region). After this the cows came down, safe and sound for winter. Or at least, we assume they did. Because I colossally buggered up the time of the parade we had to hit the road to get our girl home, so we didn’t actually see them come in. This could mean bad luck for us for the coming winter, but not speaking Swiss German means I am happily oblivious to any such misfortune. We made our way back down the mountain and towards home.

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We decided on an alternate and even more spectacular route home. Its beauty was surpassed only by the terror it inspired. There are no snaps because Tim was endangering our lives driving* and I was too busy making permanent nail marks in the door handle of the car. When we finally made it back down, we had a ferry trip across Lake Lucerne and we all got out to watch the scenery.

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And find our sea legs.

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*Tim’s actually an excellent driver. I’m just a big fat scaredy cat.

Time and again

I’ve had my nose in a book of one sort or another for a good chunk of my life. I generally favour fiction but frequently nonfiction gets a look in, and even text books have had their moment depending on where I’m at (I have also been known to rebrand trashy magazines ‘journals’ to justify smashing through them). There are peaks and troughs, of course; maybe it’s got something to do with my new mountainous surrounds but I’m currently on a steep incline. I suspect there’s also an element of escapism from my day to day required – partly to balance out the potentially overwhelming nature of this move, but also to fill the sometimes relentlessly long days (think apartment / less than stellar weather / restless frustrated possibly teething baby and welcome to my current hell). I’ve just finished the Maeve Kerrigan series (the print equivalent to binge-watchable TV. We’re not huge telly people at the best of times and in Deutsch it’s even less appealing, so this had it covered), the Spellman series (a comedy detective series, a genre I didn’t even know existed and which probably doesn’t need to), a couple of Stephen King novels (one on time travel and the other a non-fiction. He’s an author I never rated but had also never read since my teen years. I stand corrected), a book on ‘fixing’ baby sleep (in desperation, even though I knew as I bought it that it would be a waste of my time and eyes), a couple of easy-to-read and amusing David Sedaris essay compilations and – finished this morning – Time and Again by Jack Finney.

The Finney novel was recommended by Stephen King (in the credits of his own time travel novel. I obviously don’t know the guy and am certainly not on terms to sit down with him for a chat about what I may fancy reading next. If I was, I would probably be more interested in finding out if it would be possible to use his work to scare the girl to sleep) as being the best of its genre. I’m not normally one for fantasy or science fiction novels, but sometimes when you’re spiralling down a path you may as well roll with it. Written in the 70s, its explanation of time travel was based on an Einstein theory*: time is fluid, like a river. Taking this literally, a physicist in the novel proposed that one could, when the river bent back on itself, use self hypnosis to jump to the earlier time. It required a knowledge of what that time was like, to convince oneself it was actually happening and therefore allow the person to make the transition. It was an interesting device – more believable than a clumsy time travel machine (although I have no beef at all with the DeLorean) and slightly more so than the ‘freak of nature’ plot lines in their various forms (and all of a sudden it becomes apparent I’ve read my fair share of time travelling novels. Busted). Time and Again focused on a jump to 1880s New York City via an unmodernised hotel, but alluded to other projects such as 14th century France via the Notre Dame and a late 1700s Native American settlement.

I’ve been thinking about this premise a lot over the last few days. I spend a significant amount of my time walking the trails around our village, particularly in the early morning and late afternoons. I’m motivated for several reasons: two of them are edible and start with ch, and the third is cute enough to eat but apparently there are taboos against such behaviour. It only takes a few minutes to leave our small town and all of a sudden we’re crunching through the forest, or passing farmhouses, or on the shores of the lake. The hustle and bustle – train station, shops and those infernal bells – is gone.

Perhaps it’s true for most places, if you stop to think about it, but it feels like there’s something about this area that makes jumping back in time feasible. Maybe it’s the acrid earthy pungency (otherwise known as a rank, rank stink) of the dairy land, the cutting burn of the Autumn air at the back of your throat so vicious you can taste it, the trees gradually yet inevitably mellowing and ageing into winter, those brutal beautiful mountains rising above us all. Physical, obvious experiences that are as tangibe now as they must have been forever (or as long as cows have been domesticated, at any rate). A few days ago, the fog was thinking about lifting just as the sun shot through across the hills (I have neither Tim’s eye nor camera, and thus was unable to capture it appropriately), and it could have been today, or ten years ago, or ten thousand. I wasn’t dressed appropriately for the time jump, and nor was my girl, but the novel shifted from being an interesting time wasting dalliance to almost believable, obtainable. With renewed enthusiasm, I finished it this morning and it had a well rounded, satisfactory finale (unlike you, Spellman series). Even though we didn’t discuss it over coffee, and I will never know if It is the answer to all our bedtime woes, King’s advice was sound.

*I don’t know if this is an actual Einstein theory or not. It could totally be the scientific equivalent of one of these, usually found on Pinterest. I’m too uneducated in physics (phygnorant?) to know, and too lazy to check.

Annual Carnival Festival Fair Market Day

First things first: we have a home! We got the apartment in downtown Lucerne and will be moving mid November, hopefully aligned with the arrival of our sea freight. It’s a relief because although house hunting is, to quote my bestie, ‘the ultimate form of shopping’, it’s also a royal pain in the butt. Although Adelaide was present for the viewing of our new apartment, she actually slept the whole way through it, which I am taking as a good omen given the depths to which we stooped this weekend.

As I’ve mentioned previously (both here and to anyone and everyone I meet, in a manner both tedious and dull) our girl ain’t a good sleeper. Although she’s recovered from her jetlag, we’ve really struggled the last month with getting her to bed. I’m talking hours of screaming every night and there seems to be nothing we can do to settle her (more food / less food; cuddles / giving her space; earlier / later naps; dad settling / mum settling; bribes / threats extending all the way to her teen years…but nada). Our current apartment, being temporary, doesn’t have proper blinds. We’ve got these weird yellow shutters and seethrough curtains – the light lingers until quite late in the night. While lovely for us, it’s not so great for a non-sleepy lass. We spent a ridiculous amount of time this weekend tin foiling her windows to keep out the light, something I have openly mocked other people for doing in the past. Chide all you will – she fell asleep in five minutes flat last night (I am not expecting the same miracle tonight – rather I reckon she’s onto us and is trying to lull us into a false sense of hope)*. Desperation is ugly, people.

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Other than apparently setting up a drug lab in our house, we mostly hung out in Rotkreuz this weekend. Our wee town had a fair happening; at least, I assume it was a fair. I’d heard something about a Christmas Market, but when I asked a stall holder if that’s what it was she looked at me as if I had three heads (none of which could converse in German). She said it was a carnival for kids, and gestured towards the dodgem carts. I asked another stall holder and he said it was an annual event, a festival. Still wanting some sort of definitive description, I asked a third person and although no clearer, I liked her answer the best: ‘We’re open until 2am because we’re the bar’.

We made our way across to the right side of the tracks to check it out.

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All the while, the bloody bells tolling.

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The mainy was blocked off and had a range of stalls – food, games, drinks, rides and standard international junk (and carnies, reassuringly the same the world over).

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Tim was accosted to play the game below – pay a franc, get to remove a screw with the drill. The screws were randomly attached to strings which in turn held bags of candies. Tim won two and subsequently my heart.

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One of the consequences of having nicknamed our girl Adelaideybird means that any and all ladybirds we come across are pretty much guaranteed to be purchased. This creepy balloon is currently staring at me ominously across the living room.

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Naturally, the stand where we spent the most time was the one spruiking wine and smallgoods. These guys hail from about two hours away, near Geneva. Wine tasting at fairs is not dissimilar to purchasing clothes on holidays. It seems excellent at the time and your decisions completely rational – you kind of get caught up in the thrill of the moment. However, when back at home in the cold hard light of non-holidays, the shine tends to leave your purchases. The wine we tasted here seemed amazing and we bought several bottles; let’s hope it holds up better than the Man Skirt Tim (and to be fair, all the other guys on our holiday) purchased some years ago in Sri Lanka.

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We also went in for our first taste of raclette. It was served in a large Oktoberfest-ish tent (there were half a dozen or so of these with different foods throughout the fair). It was probably the Swiss equivalent of a Bunnings sausage sizzle in terms of quality (or maybe, if we’re being generous, market gozleme). But, like the snag on white with onions and sauce, it was delicious. A mate of ours (a food critic and also all-round trustworthy person) advised that raclette should always be eaten with a Riesling, to stop the cheese congealing once it hits your belly. My arteries may have congealed a little, but on account of her sound advice my stomach certainly did not.

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Also, yes our girl matches the tablecloth.

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The other lovely thing about Small Town Fair was that we ran into 100% of the people that we know who live in Rotkreuz. Bearing in mind that the sum total of said people is five, three of whom are children of the other two, it’s not a difficult statistic to achieve but nice nonetheless. I’m not counting Late Afternoon Dog Walking Lady with whom I’ve had three bumbled conversations where I’ve patted her pup and she’s patted our lass, although chances are reasonable she was in the crowd somewhere too.

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Tim has his first trip away for work this week – to Germany – and my folks are arriving for babysitting a holiday. We also get our wheels so I’ll need to overcome my fear of driving on the wrong side of the road as I doubt our car will be as forgiving as the nice bumpy dodgems. Luckily there is Fair Wine to see me through. (I just realised that it might sound like I intend to drink and drive. No siree, unless we’re talking the dodgems in which case game on.)

*I was completely correct in this assumption. Night two in the meth lab and she’s back to screaming the neighbourhood down.

On the hunt

I love the feeling you get when you first see a new place that will become familiar, part of your day to day. It doesn’t happen often: new houses, workplaces, gyms (that last one’s a gag, by the way, as no gym has ever become familiar to me). It’s fleeting – there’s usually only a day or two where it feels foreign and new and then all of a sudden you’ve settled in and you’ll never see it with fresh eyes again. I remember trying to appreciate this feeling when we moved into our house in Marrickville (we sat on the ground in our back patio as the heavy summer rain poured down, eating sub-par pizza, looking at the knee high grass that the owner had failed to cut prior to us taking possession, smelling the new, strange smell of the house and hearing its echo). So when we went apartment hunting for our permanent accommodation, I tried to be conscious of this feeling as we looked through a range of potential new homes.

Our relocation consultant, a lovely Lucerne local with a ready smile and a gentle manner with our little girl, had put together a list of seven places for us to view. Tim, being Tim, developed a rating system for them. He calculated cost per square metre, distance to both Lucerne station and his work, distance to public transport and shops, and factored in a range of features such as access to a laundry. The apartments were then ranked according to this system, and I got significant milage out of teasing him for his Excel based nerdiness.

As the viewing progressed we started to categorise the houses based on impressions, as you do when seeing something for a half hour block. For example, there was Cat House (the couple that lived there loved cats THE MOST. They had several as pets, the cats had their own balcony, and almost every room had a cat climbing tower. Additionally, their art primarily featured felines – in fact pictures of cats outnumbered pictures of their kids. The apartment itself was a quirky number built in the 50s, with a slanting roof and epic storage, something of a rarity here). We also saw Piano Room Saunaville, a large rambling apartment spanning two floors with garish red awnings, a sound proofed room (the prior tenant was a piano teacher) and a communal sauna slash germ breeding ground in the basement. We looked both in Lucerne town and in suburbs a little further out, some with stunning views across the lake and Alps and others with not-so-breathtaking views of the train line.

Prior to going into Goldie (the apartment had many feature walls, all of which had some manner of gold in them. One was a textured gold wall in the master bedroom, another a bold black and gold floral print in what would have been Adelaide’s room), the girl had fallen asleep in the car seat. Our relocation consultant, who is the mother of four grown kids, asked me if I would be leaving her in the car while we went in to view the apartment. I am not sure whether this is because it’s usual for Swiss people to do this (it is an extraordinarily safe country apparently, and kids are encouraged to be independent from a very young age) (although I had assumed not ‘leave tiny baby in the car’ independent) or whether she thought Australians did so. Either way, for the record (and my child-protection-working mother) Laidey viewed every apartment with us.

There are of course loads of differences between properties here and ones we’ve viewed at home. Every apartment has a cellar space for storage and communal areas in the basement to dry clothing. It freaked me out a little walking through some of them; although I’m not terribly claustrophobic generally, there was something off-putting about being deep in the bowels of old buildings with no sunlight. There are bomb shelters, which are a requirement and not something we’re familiar with – they had heavy lead doors that only made the afore mentioned claustrophobia worse. Laundries are often shared, with a designated day for each tenant to access the machines (we culled such apartments, favouring those that had an internal laundry because as I have mentioned washing and drying is pretty much my number one occupation). They are highly soundproofed – a relief as the mama of a screaming bub who hates disrupting the neighbourhood – and many are built appropriately for families, often with playgrounds as part of the complex or nearby. The similarities to Sydney are mainly related to the market – rents are high, properties scarce and competition fierce for available apartments.

It had been a very long time since we’ve gone house hunting together, and I’d forgotten that we have quite different priorities and taste. After lots of viewing, judging and arguing (over vinos later that night), we were able to agree on one. It’s based in Lucerne, right near the lake but also the station, and feels like it’s in the thick of things. An application is in and fingers are crossed. The only downside was that it was also number one on the Tim Scale, so of course I’ll be hearing about that for some time to come.