granted two days off work this week, Dan and I decided to take
off south in search of sanity and relaxation. Yearning for freedom,
we hired a car from Bruno, a local taxi driver, and took the highway
towards the Italian region of Switzerland. For the first few kilometres
I struggled to remember how to drive, frequently riding the kerb
and attempting to change gear with the door handle on my left.
However, by the time we began to climb the first of two mountain
passes I felt fairly competant, and even managed to carry out
an emergency stop when suddenly out of the thick fog traffic cones
appeared across the carriageway in the entrance to a narrow tunnel.
I think Dan was a bit freaked out - but not as much as me when
earlier I simply couldn't remember which was the brake and which
was the accelerator. Thankfully Dan's driving wasn't half as bad
as mine - we both then had the opportunity to relax.
everything fell into place. A rare space for the car appeared
right beside the tourist information office on the lakefront,
and not 50 metres from there a cheap hotel where we got their
last room which apparantly sported "lake views". Hhhmm,
yes, we couldn't deny it - we could see a thin slice of water
at the end of the narrow alleyway that lay between the buildings
a great surprise for us in that it was Italian in every way. It
was difficult to remember that we were actually in Switzerland
when all around people were speaking a language neither of us
understood, Pizzas topped every restaurant menu card and the architecture
was undeniably Italian with the cobbled squares and arched walkways.
The local population were sophisticated in their dress, looking
appeallingly sexy in an unmistakingly Meditteranean fashion. Ice
cream carts stood on every corner and there was the relaxed disorganised
atmosphere that I have not experienced since my February trip
a look around town and admired the local sights... (such as the
children's circus that had pitched itself just down the street
from our hotel) we decided to do a little tour of the local area
by car. Our goal was to find a big shop where we could spend lots
of money that we didn't have, but all we could find was a tiny
Co-op in a petrol station. Loaded up with beer to drink in town
we headed back across the lake, getting lost for the 8th time
in 10 hours and ending up in the parking lot of a Ferrari Showroom.
Realising that neither of us knew how to hotwire a car we soon
gave up on the idea of ram-raiding the place, and instead moved
on to the nearby Ikea store where we walked around in circles
for what seemed liked forever in a bid to escape the notorious
1-way system that they employ to get you to spend more money.
Depressingly, neither of us was able to spend a single Swiss Franc
in a neighbouring huge electrical store, although on my part that
was purely because I knew that whatever I did buy I'd have to
cart back to the UK (where I'd only be able to use it for three
weeks in any case).
that all films were in Italian at the local cinema we ventured
back into the main square for a meal. From under the big canvas
umbrellas of the Tango bar we scoffed our way through pizzas,
downed our beers and admired the torrential thunderstorm around
us. Although initially amused by the fact that we were so close
to the downpour and yet still dry, we soon found ourselves being
laughed at as the splashes of rain on the bricked ground soon
ensured that we were pretty much soaked through. Next, it was
onto a club which was quite a treat as the most action we'd seen
was in Tiffanys in Wengen - those of you who've been there will
know what I'm saying... it was 4.00am by the time I staggered
home. I can usually tell when it's time for bed - I start making
international calls with my cellphone.
later we were up once more, cruising in the beautiful Italian
sun, head out of the sunroof with Fat Boy Slim blasting out. Boy
was I happy... it just felt great to be free. Returning home we
stopped off in Locarno where my parents had been for their honeymoon
over 35 (?) years ago. A spot of bull-riding
and a milkshake provided amusement there, but hangovers always
win and so home it was over the Gotthard Pass where we witnessed
a motorcyclists hopping around in agony having wiped out not far
ahead of us on the twisty wet roads. Back in Interlaken I bought
a new camera (Canon 300 EOS - 1-year-old model but a bargain at
sfr500 and half the weight of the Nikon F50 I've had for the past
5 years and have now sold to Dan), filled up with fuel and fell
asleep on the train back up the mountain.
It's so good
to get out of this place sometimes. It's vital to remeber that
life is about living for the moment and a lot more fun if you
refuse to follow routine for the sake of laziness and a lack of
August 2001 was sponsered by Fiat.
Wednesday 8th August
to the Wengernalpbahn (the local railway company) for bringing
four of your trains to a halt - I was only trying to stop those
goats from eating our flowers.
The days are
just flying by. Just got too much to do! I've been seriously researching
into jobs in Japan, there's so many advertised although unfortunately
my lack of a degree to prove my worthiness hinders my search somewhat.
I thoroughly recommend www.eslworldwide.com
. If you are considering teaching in Japan then do get hold of
a copy of the FREE online twice-monthly magazine from www.ohayosensei.com,
it;s packed with jobs, links and other useful stuff. Perhaps THE
most popular Teaching English as a Foreign Language website is
Due to the sheer volume of hits it recieves it is a great place
to check out vacancies.
exciting plan this week is to hire a car on Thursday and head
on down to Lugano. Dan and
myself both have a couple of days off and we NEED to get outta
here! I've never really been to the Italian part of Switzerland...
we intend to just have a great party. Will report back in a few
Monday 30th July
I feel great!
Not only have I just hired a Mercedes A-Class for only £9
a day (want to see me whilst I'm in the UK between 15th September
2001 and 6th October 200? - get in touch and I'll come to you!),
but I have also just booked my flight from London to Tokyo - only
£304! Don't ask which airline it is though...! If you want
to travel cheaply check out www.cheapflights.com
I was VERY impressed with what they had on offer... and the car
was from www.easycar.com
a sister company of www.easyjet.com
(still one of the cheapest airlines in Europe). Boy oh boy! I
can't believe I'm actually going!
Sunday 29th July
news... Ok, so a few days ago Cow Hut Camp Fest 2001 took place,
a wee little gathering organised by myself and Dan atop the Lauberhorn
"mountain" in a deserted cow hut. Copious amounts of
beer, wine, vodka and food ensured we were all a little anethitised
to the cold of the starry night. It was all quite a laugh (playing
"ibble dibble" with a burnt cork) and an early morning
swim in the reservoir fought off the hangover. Photos available
in my latest
online album... Erm, my cracked rib has made a full
recovery, although I now have 3 huge scars on my elbow, hip and
leg following my latest accident cycling through Grindelwald last
week. Oh - and does anyone know who stole my brakes?
is coming on nicely with at least an hours study every day. I
can hardly believe that I can speak another language. Life is
currently very very difficult here with lonliness featuring prominently,
and so it is vital that I use my time constructively, in addition
to saving about £750 a month. Alas, I have begun a countdown
until my departure (something I don't really believe in), for
I cannot wait for life to begin again as currently it feels like
all is on hold. 46 days and counting until my return to the UK
for 3 weeks to obtain my working holiday visa... must buy a ticket
tonight for Japan... considering getting a one-way ticket...
Boy oh boy
is it a crazy world. I'm really quite annoyed with myself for
not being happy and not doing anything about it. The only reason
I can stick it is because I know it will all be over in a matter
of weeks... and then FREEDOM!
Sunday 15th July
and gentlemen, boys and girls. Time is flying by. As of today
I have less than 9 weeks left in Kleine Scheidegg, this mountain
retreat that has been my home for the past 14 months. The idea
of moving on is both exciting and scary. Once more my life will
see a complete revolution in terms of what I do and how I communicate
with those around me. This is a major step for me - leaving Switzerland
- for the time I have spent here has been more rewarding in many
ways than much of my previous life. The experiences I have had
since 17th March 2000 (when I left the UK) have served to give
me a rich education and a strong feeling of belief in myself,
the like of which I never thought would be possible.
adventures include going to Natalie and Tom's wedding. A lovely
ceremony in Wengen Catholic church was followed by a trip down
to Interlaken by train. By the time we boarded the boat to cruise
the Brienzersee most of us were feeling pretty good really...
although my memory is a little hazy for the hours between 12pm
and 5pm. Thankfully I haven't seen the photos of me hanging out
the window of the train on the way back up to Wengen - they don't
tell a pretty story although I'm told I provided much amusement.
and I have discovered the local swimming pool - a big reservoir
at the top of the Lauberhorn used for the snow machines in the
winter. At the end of a long hot summer's day it's pretty warm,
although we're convinced that there's a big scary monster at the
bottom. I certainly wouldn't go in alone. Two nights ago a trip
to the chocolate machine turned into a mountain climb as Frances
and I decided to head for the ridge between the Lauberhorn and
Tschuggen. What seemed like a simple climb became a grapple betwen
life and death as we hauled ourselves up a cliff face clinging
onto any tufts of grass that offered a little security. It was
worth it though - the sun had long-gone from Scheidegg yet we
were able to once more feel it upon our faces and marvel at how
our shadows were being cast upon the Eiger North Face so far away.
latest money-raising scheme - (I bought 40 bottles of beer in
Wengen for 55rp (22p) in order to sell them to my thirsty colleagues
for sfr1.00 (40p) ) - can safely be declared a failure. Two weeks
on the beers all gone, but I only sold one. Better watch that
belly of mine...
this summer is proving to be a great challenge. In the past few
weeks a feeling of lonliness that had lain dormant for about two
months has been resurrected, causing emotional struggles that
take much energy. To combat this, I have embarked upon a mission:
to learn Japanese. With the help of several excellent books, 6
cassettes, lots of words written on the walls and the continuous
encouragement given by my friend Yuko, I feel I am making good
progress. Yesterday I actually managed to have a decent conversation
in Japanese with a guest, and I get much support and recognition
from the tourguides who frequent our restaurant. I am staggered
by my ability to learn another language - I never really believed
I'd be able to do it, but the joy I now feel when I can understand
someone is just the best - it makes it all worthwhile.
I will be
returning to the Uk in mid-september in order to obtain the new
Japanese Working Holiday Visa, aiming to fly to Tokyo around the
10th October. All going well, I'll be in Asia until September
2002, before returning to Europe (probably).
for not having written ANY letters in the past few weeks. I simply
don't have time at the moment, and also I still have a nasty case
of RSI in my arm resulting from the building of this website.
folks. Till next time,
Friday 6th July
Sorry if links to my photos aren't working, experiencing a few
I was woken
this morning at 6am by the sunrise. Falling out of bed, I staggered
across my squeeky floor to admire the view that my window commands
of the Grindelwald Valley. The sun was just climbing above the
distant mountain ranges, causing extremes of dark and light that
really made it a wonderful sight to be woken by. It's strange
how experiencing something like that can strip away the layers
of rubbish that may be clogging up one's mind and heart. Recently,
things have been a little difficult up this mountain with several
key people feeling quite negative about life in the Alps. This
undoubtably has an effect upon the rest of us as we are very close,
and therefore I have found to difficult to appreciate life as
a whole - instead the focus has been narrow and dark. When waking
to the sight I was greeted with this morning however, I can't
help but smile and think of the quote I have upon my door, "It's
hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world."
Tuesday 26th June
Fractured rib AOK with the aid of the super big stretchy bandage
thing I'm sporting... Silvia has had her baby girl - Lena. All
the family are doing well. I'm finding it difficult to believe
that I'll be finished here in 3 months, and in Japan for a year
not long after that. Special thanks this week to Sarah Garcia
for the card, letter and photos - so good to hear from you. Congratulations
to Natalie Dawson and Tom whose wedding I'm going to on Saturday,
I'm looking forward to having a great day which hopefully I will
be able to remember at least a little bit! I wish Kae well with
her trip to New York and Emmie Nakamura with her forthcoming trip
voyage to Japan. Thanks also to all those who have contacted me
over the past week with words of support and happiness - I really
Saturday 23rd June
Just got back from attempting to bike up to Eigergletscher with
Dan. Got stopped halfway by a couple of donkey-sized wild goat
things with big horns - that's our excuse anyway - in actual fact
we just freaked out at the incline ahead of us. Dan had a fantastic
accident on the way down about one metre from two hikers who were
taking a coffee break. He went right over the handlebars... I
shouldn't have laughed I know, but all three of us couldn't help
but burst into hysterics. He's ok though, doesn't even have a
scratch. My rib is mending slowly, the only time it really hurts
is at night time but that's ok because I'm asleep then. My best
wishes to Fran Morgan and her family following her awful bicycle
accident and her son's broken arm incident.
arrival of Yuko from Nagoya (Japan) has prompted me to really
get on with learning Japanese. She'll be working here for the
next three months as a member of our Service team. Every morning
I will complete another section of the BBC cassette and book course
I have, and then irritate Yuko throughout the day by pestering
her with questions regarding pronounciation and so on. I don't
know why, but I felt that I was too old to learn another language,
that it was too late! What rubbish... it seems all you need is
a real determination and no fear to try out what you learn. Yesterday
I learnt how to say "please keep your fork". oh yes,
I know all the good phrases...
Almen went into hospital on the 21st June to have her second baby.
Rumour has it she's still in labour - ouch!
must get on. Tomorrow I am going on a BIG BIG adventure, that
is, down to the village where there are all those modern things
(like cars). It's a bit scary for a mountain monkey such as myself
but Dan will accompany me to make sure I don't get lost.
all the positive feedback you've sent regarding my website - I
really appreciate it.
and love to all.
Wednesday 20th June
Well, since I last wrote the main event in my life has been a
visit to the doctor in Lauterbrunnen - I've cracked a rib! Hhmm,
the bike accident I describe below was a little more serious than
I'd hoped, but heah, it makes life more interesting. Pain only
comes at night, and I've got a big stretchy bandage thing to wear
- bit like a corset. Give it a few weeks and all will be fine.
I've found another host for my photos although it may be a while
until I upload them - currently too busy drinking copious amounts
of wine whilst teaching a couple of Canadian friends how to play
Racing Demon and Spit (card games). hhhmmm, life is wonderful,
I remain very very happy and hope to hear from you soon. Oh- does
anyone know if Billy Salisbury is accessable via email? I'd be
most grateful for any details.
Bye for now!
Friday 15th June
folks, here we are at last, a finished website. I swear that after
spending the last two months on this project I'd be happy if I
never saw another website again. I've got RSI in my right hand
from using the mouse so much and my back aches from carting my
huge computer up and down 72 steps every night in order to access
the internet! Still, hopefully it will fulfill its purpose which
essentially is to let people know what I'm up to should they become
as of today I will no longer have regular internet access, but
hope to make it to an internet cafe on a weekly basis in order
to catch up with what you folks have been doing - email
me and let me know!
this week for me has been an incident that occured yesterday.
In order to meet Frances and Dan who were walking up to Scheidegg
from Wengen, I chose to race a train - on my mountain bike. I
was completely out of control as I managed to overtake it, and
knew full-well that just around the corner lay a sharp drop followed
by a hard left. However, my mind being elsewhere at the time,
I wasn't really concious of just how fast I was going... until
I hit the corner, failed to get round it and went slap bang into
the the hill that rises sharply to the right of the track. Thankfully
some trees shielded me from the train passengers... but I was
badly hurt and my bike wasn't feeling too good either. Rather
foolishly I got straight back on gritting my teeth, and continued
down the mountain... until I skidded to a halt when the front
tyre fell of and the inner-tube burst. It was then that I felt
the pain: I've got a lovely wound on my back and I swear I've
broken a rib but no one here will believe me. My left arm which
initially looked quite impressive covered in blood is now just
a load of scratches. Breathing deeply does hurt but my gasps of
agony are met with cries of "Be quiet! You've already had
two months off with a broken bone this year!"
going on: I am currently applying for one of the 400 new Japanese
Working Holiday visas. This will entitle me to live and work in
Japan for up to a year, hopefully beginning in November. Now I've
finished my website I intend to get on with learning the basics
of the language from a BBC cassette/book course that I recently
bought. I must say, it's been a joy to discover that I can actually
learn another language, for some crazy reason I was beginning
to feel that I was too old for that!
to write my diaries that I began over ten years ago. Together,
these 42 books tell the story of an ordainary chap living a very
happy life. For those of you who are wondering when I'm going
to settle down and get a proper job - forget it! I am learning
more about myself and life by doing exactly what I want to. I
am only too aware that one of the causes of true happiness is
living for the day and making the most of every single second
of every single day - not worrying about one's retirement.
opens tomorrow meaning that I have to find my bow-tie tonight
at the bottom of my sock-drawer, in order to serve the ninety
or so Japanese guests that are staying. The sleepy atmosphere
of this place should lift within the next couple of weeks as two
new members of staff join, one from Japan and another from England.
Lets just hope that they're cool and have a good sense of humour...
time, take care and be happy.