Resting bike face

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You may be familiar with the phenomenon that is resting bitch face, whereby a certain number of females and males too (let’s not discriminate) are prone to the condition of a face that, when left to it’s own devices, expresses the wrath of an inner demon that thrives on kicking kittens, making their friends pay for everything and insulting disabled people.

This is no reflection on the owner of said face, as more often than not they are unaware of this portentous façade, which is why the evidence is only ever seen when the person is at rest and is not responding to the people around them.

Some say this may be a survival tactic that has evolved over hundreds of years to send a clear signal to anyone, that might want to engage in some light hearted chit-chat with a stranger, that this stranger would actually rather be left alone with their own thoughts/book/electronic gizmo/etc.

Some say this condition is actually symptomatic of those inner demons that reside within all of us and are merely pretending to be human whilst waiting for the moment to exorcise themselves of their host and take over the world.

Some say that as it takes more muscles to frown than to smile then resting bitch face is just a subconscious facial workout.

Whatever the reason behind the act, at least the condition has gained worldwide recognition. What may be less commonly known to you is the phenomenon that is resting bike face. It has come to my awareness that this is something that afflicts me.

From a distance on my bicycle I probably look like any other cyclist, well possibly slightly slower, more out of breath and marginally sweatier than other cyclists but you get the idea. However, if you were to take a nice photo of me cycling past and then zoom in on my precise facial expression you would notice that in fact my resting bike face is no laughing condition.

Unlike resting bitch face my facial expression whilst cycling does not so much suggest to the world that I am better left alone, so much as ‘if you don’t get out of my way I may actually bite off a limb and pick my teeth with your bones.’

Even though I am now conscious of the fact that my face has a tendency to scrunch up into something resembling a snarling paper ball I am still unable to stop the problem.

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I am probably more conscious of the issue since my Cambodian bike helmet, complete with snazzy visor, broke, thus leaving much more of my face exposed to the world than previously. Perhaps my face is just reacting badly to the removal of that flimsy plastic piece of social distance that used to be affixed to my head?

I have noticed that my resting bike grimace is intensified with the addition of the vacant gaze a dead fish would be proud of when cycling uphill becomes even less enjoyable than normal, with, say, the addition of a light snowy breeze blowing into my face or leg muscles that are valiantly trying not to crumble after I’ve overdone it at the gym and then decided to cycle home (in my head it makes a lot more sense).

Although at least under these conditions that zombie dead-eyed ravenous expression would probably make more sense to the average passer by than under pleasanter cycling conditions.

Whilst I am unable to control my two wheeled riding expression I am reasonably sure I don’t actually want to tear your head off with my teeth, but as this theory is untested it maybe best to stay out of my way if you see me pootling toward your, just to be on the safe side.

This wont be a problem as I tend to pedal at the pace of a sloth who has already put in their day’s work just by waking up in the morning, but you have been warned!

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Anarchy comes to Geneva

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On Saturday night whilst I was indulging myself with homemade mulled wine and chocolate fondue something a little less sedate was taking place on the streets of Geneva.

I’m going to go out on a limb and call it vandalism. Those involved would probably wish to contradict me and call it anarchy, as though this justifies destructive behaviour (smashing windows, painting slogans and throwing paint at buildings and statues) as having a higher purpose of ‘fighting the power’.

The thing about anarchy though, is that it is inherently, absolutely pointless. I understand that there is lots to be dissatisfied about in this world where rich white men tend to dominate proceedings and set the rules.

I don’t dispute there is room for improvement but you’ll have to forgive me for baulking at the idea of disestablishing government and prevailing law and order in favour of some sort of lawless society as epitomized in most Westerns. Personally, I don’t want to be subject to the whims of lunatic men on horseback with guns who can act with impunity.

One of the slogans I spotted on the bus was ‘fight the law’ and I just thought why? What is it about ‘the law’ that you don’t like? Is it that people aren’t supposed to rob you at gun point and take your belonging, is it that if someone hurts you or someone you care about they ought to be able to get away with it?

Would it help if I clarified that ‘the law’ isn’t actually the pseudonym of a dragon-wielding monster-villain intent on capturing virgins and eating the people’s livestock and pets? If it were, and my little cats were in danger, then by all means hand me the pitchfork and burning torch and I’ll fight the good fight.

Perhaps foolishly I think laws are supposed to protect people, myself included. I don’t deny that these aren’t always equally enforced and may sometimes benefit some more than others, but that’s a problem with implementation not the entire system.

I was trying to figure out what the point of ‘anarchy’ is and in some forum some chap explained that if anarchy were to succeed then local communities would get together to elect their own leaders and establish their own law and order. This confused me because, well, isn’t that what democracy is? People vote for local leaders, who represent their interests…

Sure, sometimes people vote for others that the rest of us think are dastardly villains, but that’s how democracy works, sometimes people are idiots. Whilst the idea of a particular bouffant buffoon perhaps becoming leader of one of the most powerful nations of the world is terrifying he would have to be elected by a lot of people and although we may think those people monster raving loonies (but not in the good way) they are at liberty to vote for who they want.

Where potentially dangerous leaders are elected to power I am all the more grateful for yet another added level of bureaucracy, in the form of international law and standards, that may have the capacity to keep such individuals in check.

In Switzerland anarchy makes even less sense because the people here already have more power than in most other democratic nations. They really can shape the development of legislation through frequent referenda, often initiated by the people, on most issues. Some of the votes on theses referenda don’t make sense to me, such as voting against increasing raising the minimum wage. The bleeding-heart, lefty liberal that I am, can’t understand why the majority wouldn’t vote for this, but the decision not to raise the wage was the will of most of the people.

I think when people talk about anarchy and setting up on their own they mean setting up with like-minded people and conveniently ignoring everyone else. The idea of those who would like to see a fairer world coming together voluntarily to share resources on an equal footing is lovely. This isn’t really anarchy though, this is what Communism is supposed to look like but as we know attempts have been unable to live up to the ideal and realize this egalitarian utopia.

Because this is the problem, not everyone wants to live in an egalitarian utopia. Even the best of us don’t spend our lives selflessly dedicated to the wellbeing of others, everyone puts their own needs first sometimes, some of us do this all the time. Most of us are quite content just trying to live in this world without harming those around us and some of us don’t really care about who they harm. This is what it means to live in freedom in the world, it means we have the freedom to try and be the best version of ourselves but we also have the freedom to be bastards to those around us as well as future generations we may never know.

The idea of anarchy as absolute freedom for everyone would be great if everyone happened to be a decent person but not everyone is a decent person and how can you have no establishment, no authority, absolute freedom but exclude the indecent people from this? Who would draw the line? And if nobody draws the line then that means that many will live without freedom because they are afraid of the liberties of others.

The thing about anarchy that bothers me is that it’s an easy option for lazy people who want to express their indignation without really doing anything to change things. It is easy to throw criticism, stones or paint from afar but actually making suggestions for improvement is another thing. Destruction is far easier than creation.

Some of the alleged concerns (I say alleged because I don’t doubt some saw the march just as an excuse to just destroy shit) of those that marched on Geneva are reasonable, lack of subsidies for culture that is accessible to everyone is worth fighting against but there are better ways to do this. If the issue is budget cuts then causing thousands of francs worth of damage will just fuel government claims they don’t have the money.

If you don’t like the system, look to change it, suggest alternatives and seek about how to implement them without harming others. Resorting to petty acts of violence will do nothing but alienate what may genuinely be a worthy cause.

In other, far better words than mine: ‘be the change that you wish to see in the world.’

‘Twas the night’ – L’escalade

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Twas the right time of a year for a repost – Happy Escalade Geneva and all who sail in her!


Twas the night of midwinter, when all through Geneva,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a beaver,
The washing all hung, by the chimney with care,
In hopes that come morning, dry clothes would be there,
The children were nestled, all safe in their beds,
While scents of hot soup, filled their sweet heads,
And Madame in her bonnet, apron in her lap,
Had just settled down, for a long winters nap,
When out on the walls, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed, to see what was the matter.
Away to the window, I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash,
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of midday to object below,
When what to my wandering eyes should appear,
But enemy troops, in formidable gear,
With the Duke of Savoy, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment, this was a devilish trick.
In blackened armour, they scaled the walls,
As they clambered, and scrambled, and planned our downfall.
Now musketeer, now canoneer, now pikeman, now fusilier,
On scoundrel, on crook, on rascal, damned villains!
To the top of the outer wall, to the foot of the inner wall
Now dash-away, dash-away, and damned you all!
A sentry alerted that all is awry,
Having met with alarm, emits a loud cry,
But up to the money gate, the rapscallions they flew,
With an armoury full of weapons, and bad intent too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard from the gloom,
A rattling, and clattering from our little room,
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Away from the kitchen, Mère Royaume came with a bound.
She was dressed in night wear, from her head to her foot,
And her apron, tied round her, had remained put,
A cauldron of soup, she turned to with a knack,
And engaged in removing it from the hot rack,
Her eyes, how they darkened; her brows, how creased,
Her lips were drawn tight, her anger unceased,
Her bare little feet scuttled across the floor,
As she emerged from the kitchen door,
The lump of her pot, she held tight with gritted teeth,
And the steam it encircled her head like a wreath.
She had a broad face, and little beads of sweat,
From all the effort were making her wet,
She was determined and grim, a right angry old elf,
I started when I saw her, in spite of myself,
A wink of her eye and a twist of her head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread,
She spoke not a word, but went straight to her work,
And from the window, her soup she upturned, with a jerk,
From the enemy below a cry soon arose,
Rising up through the night, we heard their woes,
The brigands at bay, burned by the soup, gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle,
But I heard Madame exclaim, as the enemy fled from sight,
“Happy Escalade to all, and to all a goodnight!”
© Courtesy of www.1602.ch

© Image courtesy of http://www.1602.ch

 


With credit to Clement Clarke Moore’s “‘Twas the night before Christmas” poem which inspired, and provided some of the lines, for my parody.
You can find l’escalade Part 2 here.

Pretending I’m a runner

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About a month ago I completed my first half-marathon, which was one of my 2015 resolutions. I had wanted to run the half-marathon as part of the Geneva Marathon in May. This would have been a big event with thousands of participants and spectators to cheer me and all the other runners on.

In 2014 I ran the 10k as part of the Geneva Marathon events and really enjoyed myself, despite the physical challenge, so I assumed that the half-marathon in this setting would have been more of the same (more effort, more kilometers but also more spectators and more satisfaction). Alas, this event clashed with one of the many UK weddings we had this year so I had to give it a miss and my enthusiasm for running started to dry up without the motivation to put on my trainers, that is until I found another half-marathon in Geneva, the Demi-de-Jussy, taking place at night.

I thought a nighttime run sounded nice, it’d be cooler than running at daytime and perhaps a smaller event would be a better place to start. In hindsight, I’m pretty certain that running the smaller event as my first attempt was not a great idea. Or at least I think I might have enjoyed the half-marathon in a bigger setting for a little while longer before the intense misery associated to the physical pain kicked in. What I hadn’t reckoned on in tackling the smaller event was just how lonely it would be.

The loneliness in itself wouldn’t have been much of a problem, I usually run alone and often late at night, although always along well lit streets. However, I made the mistake many runners do and completely failed to pace myself. I was excited when the race began and was running kilometers in record times, not thinking that my body wasn’t prepared to be going at these unprecedented speeds. Perhaps I had hoped that hoards of spectators cheering away would have helped me keep up the pace but the few spectators that had been cheering us on for the first lap had clearly given up by the second, contributing to the growing sense of isolation I felt as the race progressed.

The course was two laps and it was dark. Runners had been advised to bring headlamps, and before the race I had wondered how essential this would be but was really glad the fiancé had managed to find me one the day before the race. As the course wound its way through mostly unlit country roads and sometimes wooded areas I was very grateful for the lamp, even if it wasn’t the most comfortable addition to my running gear!

For each lap there were about 3 or 4 themed stations along the way (which seemed to be based on seasons). At each station were people dressed up shouting encouragement, there was music and fun things to look at. On the first lap this was highly entertaining on the second lap these stations made me all the more conscious of how fast I wasn’t running and how alone I happened to be.

At the penultimate station, one man in drag tried to motivate me with falsetto words of encouragement and sympathy as he jogged beside me for a little while. If I had had the energy I would have punched him in the face, but he did at least encourage me to run a little faster to get away from him. I knew he meant well but by this point my mood had already plummeted from the optimistic high of ‘look at me I’m running a half-marathon’ to something much darker along the lines of ‘why am I doing this? Everything hurts. I haven’t seen anyone in a while and I’m probably going to get murdered in the woods any moment now.’ I was not in the mood for some light joshing from anyone who seemed remotely happy!

I had been prepared for the fact that a smaller event and tighter time limit (only 2.5 hours to complete) would have meant this event was likely to appeal to more serious runners than I could pretend to be. I expected to be somewhere near the back, but assumed I’d still be bumbling along with others in sight, but almost everyone had outstripped me by the 14k point. Although I wasn’t last, I was second from last.

I only managed to hobble, cramp had struck by this point, past the final person in the final kilometer, so for 5k or so I was actually last, with the constant annoyance of the sweeper car following behind me, which I resented for reminding me of my rubbish effort. (Although I appreciated the car whilst running through the woods with nothing but my little headlamp and all too many thought of how many horror stories start and end in dense woodland.

I managed to complete the course within the time limit and there were even a few stragglers at the end to applaud me, but my fiancé wasn’t among them. He’d agreed to meet me at the finish but the place wasn’t easy to access with one bus an hour so he only made it a few minutes after I finished. I had cramp, I was exhausted and I had thoroughly not enjoyed myself. When I finally saw him I promptly burst into tears and collapsed into his arms. It was a far cry from the euphoria I felt upon completing the 10k last year.

After the race, actually about 3/4 of the way through, I vowed I would never run again. But now the physical and psychological pain has faded, I am actually keen to put the running shoes back on and have signed up for the course d’escalade in Geneva this December to motivate me to get going again. I also want to run another half-marathon next year to try to put in a better effort than this performance. Memory loss is clearly a dangerous thing!

Ten reasons to live in Switzerland

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1. Chocolate. Yes there is rivalry between Belgium and Switzerland when it comes to the world’s best chocolate and personally I think Belgian truffles tip the scales slightly, although Genevan Pave’s (little chocolate truffley square thingies) are delicious and Switzerland gets credit for inventing the chocolate bar, which is easier to have kicking around your handbag than a box of truffles.

2. There is no need to constantly descale your kettle or endlessly clean your shower head. Water here is just so clean and simply isn’t full of all the crap that clogs your watery appliances in the UK.

3. It’s so expensive to live her. This might not sounds like a good thing when you are forced to spend most of the year living as a vegetarian not for commendable moral reasons but because meat is just too darn expensive. However, whenever you go anywhere else (not including Scandinavia) everything  is so much cheaper. Even London is cheap to me now. £5 a pint you say? So much more reasonable than Geneva.

4. Clean air. A colleague in my office told me that she thought Geneva was a dirty city and I laughed at her. When I came to Geneva from London the difference in air quality was palpably noticeable. Whilst I live here I don’t always remember to appreciate this but every now and then I am still impressed at just how good it feels to fill my lungs with air here.

5. Cheese. It is no exaggeration to unequivocally state that the Swiss like cheese. I have so far discovered three traditional Swiss dishes, which are all variations of cheese and potatoes: Fondue, melted cheese you dip potatoes into; raclette, you melt cheese under a grill and pour it over potatoes; and tartiflette, potatoes and cheese sort of baked together.

6. The hills really are alive with the sound of music. Cows here, do in fact, wear cowbells. These aren’t purely novelty items for sale in souvenir shops and at the airport. Everytime I’m out for a walk and hear a cowbell or two it fills me with a Swiss induced glee.

7. Yodelling is the Swiss equivalent of Morris Dancers. Your everyday Swiss person can’t just summon these vocal vibrating skills as a party trick for any occasion. I imagine most Swiss people would be a bit embarrassed to be associated with yodeling, but the thought of this specialized cultural practice dying out would fill them with sadness.

8. You don’t really need language skills to assimilate. Swiss have three (or perhaps even four?) official languages and whilst some people know them all most people tend to speak just one of French, German or Italian (and then probably English as a second language). You could go to any part of Switzerland and master a couple of sentences in one of the non spoken official languages and still pretend to be Swiss. For example you could pretend to be a Swiss French speaker living in the Swiss Italian part. Your shame at not being able to speak other languages may never be found out.

9. Their flag is a big plus (badum tsss!). If you are from a country with a pretty distinctive flag it’s great to be able to easily pick out your adopted country’s flag in a line up without having to remember which order the colours go. (Tip: If it looks like a sign for a hospital then you need to switch the red and the white around).

10. There is something about Switzerland that is inherently cool in a “let’s not talk about it” kind of way. If I was to have any European(ish) passport in addition to my UK one, I’d want a Swiss passport. Maybe it’s their neutrality, maybe its that owning a Swiss bank account makes you feel like a villain in a bond movie, maybe its the fact you know the country is awash with guns and money but no-one really wave these things in your face, maybe it’s their determined non-Europeaness (in the heart of Europe) attitude, who knows, but whatever the reason I wouldn’t mind being Swiss.

 

Ten reasons to love the rain

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1. As a wise man said, in a book I read about the Dalai Lama, there are certain external factors in life you can’t change but you can change how you respond to them. Sadly, I can’t control the weather (although I would love that as a superpower) but there is no reason why a little downpour is any reason to get down in the mouth.

2. When you are in the midst of a month-long heat wave a bit, or even a lot, of rain is a refreshing relief. The sensation of feeling cold and wet from the rain rather than hot and wet from the heat and sweat is something that can be relished whilst those blistering memories remain fresh in your mind.

3. The rain makes you feel slightly less bad about the pot of lavender on the balcony you keep forgetting to water. Even if the upstairs balcony shelters said plant from nature’s watering can.

4. As my dad taught me if you have planned a picnic, then you have a picnic. Rain is no cause to stop play but, if you really have to, you can bring along an umbrella. Rain just turns an average picnic into more of an adventure activity.

5. If you aren’t going to work or somewhere else where you are going to have to spend the next 8 hours in soggy clothes then rain is just an extra shower for the day and it’s always nice for everyone to be clean, right?

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6. It’s pretty entertaining to find yourself with a friend, sat on a bench at the Geneva beach area at Bains-des-Paquis, a popular spot for sunbathing and swimming, drinking a beer, eating some Pringles and getting completely drenched whilst sensible types flee the premises in search of shelter and warmth. Add in a lunatic laugh every now and again just to convince any stragglers that you are as insane as they clearly think you are.

7. Running in the rain makes a lot of sense, are you sweaty, is it just rain? Who knows! But there’s much less chance of getting dehydrated when the skies are leaking, and if you are thirsty on route you can just open your mouth and look up for a little light refreshment.

8. Swimming in the rain also makes sense and I did this a lot in Cambodia. The women in my hostel clearly thought I was nuts as I’d be the only person in the pool pootling up and down but my thinking was swimming is already a wet activity, rain doesn’t change that so why should it put me off?

9. Rain makes it easier to get your cats in if you want to go out or lock up the flat before bed, without having to bribe them with kitty treats or wait hours for them to wander in from whatever catty business they’ve been attending to. It’s so much less of a battle to entice them away from the delights of sunbathing and birdwatching/killing if its wet.

10. Rain is really no reason not to do stuff but it does provide a great excuse not to do stuff if you are feeling a bit anti-social and would prefer to spend the next few hours huddled up with a cup of tea/wine and some chocolate and watch endless episodes of the latest Netflix obsessions (I’ve recently discovered Orange Is The New Black).

Wear sunscreen

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A friend recently posted a link on Facebook to the ‘wear sunscreen’ graduate advice speech written by Mary Schmich and later turned into a cool Baz Luhrman song. The whole speech is great but one line really stuck out for me as I re-read it this week:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

The original point of this blog, although it may have sidled off into a different dimension or two now, or at least the basis for the title, was not to let fear hold me back from trying new things. Not to get to my death bed and be full of regrets for the things I was afraid to do. Or rather, it is my fear of being full of regrets later in life that motivates me not to let other fears hold me back from taking advantage of opportunities now.

On an overall scale I feel like I’m doing my best to live up to this grand philosophy. I’ve not been afraid to take risks with work or moving to new places, although I accept I’m at a point in my life where it is easier for me to do this than it would be if, say, we had kids or our parents weren’t well or for any number of other reasons.

But I was thinking about this line and how often I actuallyy incorporate that philosophy into my daily life. I’m not always great at this. There are many times when I’m ensconced in the comfort of my flat on a weekend and I might pass up spontaneous opportunities that arrive to try new things as I dig deep into nest-like mentality and fear the possibility of something out there being less enjoyable than the cosiness of being in here.

However I am a lot better at trying new things than I used to be and this week has been a good week for that.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to try and complete a half-marathon this year but I became disheartened when the two half-marathons I had intended to train for I realised I wouldn’t be available to participate in, owing to immovable factors like a wedding and work (for lack of money reasons the races needed to be in the local area). I stopped running in January and felt a little sad at the thought that I wouldn’t achieve my 2015 goal.

Then, last week, I discovered another half-marathon in the Geneva area in September. Having not been training regularly since January, and worried by the challenging time limits for completion, I ummed and ahhed about whether I should go for this or not. On Sunday I decided to quit worrying about why I shouldn’t do this and just sign up. Overthinking can often let fears take charge, so a bit of impulsiveness now and then is good for you!

Now I am motivated to train again, on the internet I found a proper training schedule for beginners and I’m determined to give it my best shot. It may be that on the day I fall behind the time limits and my attempt isn’t officially recorded but if I can still complete the course, even if in my own time, this will still be an achievement. Even if I don’t complete the course at least giving it a go is something to be proud of. I’m not running to win or compete against others, I want to do this for me.

On Monday I was presented with another intimidating notion, that of auditioning for a play with a local drama club. I have wanted to get back into acting for some time, having enjoyed this at school, but although I tried for a couple of things at university (mostly unsuccessfully) I have been lacking in confidence to put myself out there and audition for anything since.

Nonetheless, as part of my realisation that a large part of acting like a grown up is just that, I thought I would start with the acting before I got to the audition. I decided to act the part of someone who isn’t afraid to audition.

I wasn’t expecting to get a part in a four person cast so lacked any real fear during my audition. I enjoyed reading lines in a couple of scenes and I took on the director’s request to read in an American accent without flinching. And although, ultimately, I wasn’t cast in the play I enjoyed the process and was gratified to be told by one fellow auditionee that he thought I was the best actress, and for others to say my American accent was really good (years of watching American tv shows clearly paid off).

After the audition I expected to be rejected, not because I failed but because the director showed a clear preference for a number of actors. However, it still stung a bit this morning to officially hear I had not been cast. But that’s okay, sometimes putting myself out there is going to smart a little bit and I suppose it is this that makes it scary.

The idea of failing at something can often be used as a valid excuse not to try. Not trying can save you from a bit of hurt every now and again but the not trying can also prevent you from finding out who you are and what you are capable of, from bringing you closer to success on future attempts.

Whilst I wouldn’t advocate doing things only because they frighten you, no way would I want to have some up-close experience with a room full of tarantulas, but where fear holds you back from things you do want to do then that’s where it becomes a problem, if you let it. And I have no intention of letting my fears get in the way of who I want to be.

I wonder what potentially frightening challenges next week might have in store for me? I hope I’ll be brave enough to face them.