Tuesday, 29 September 2009

good craic

Last weekend a friend of mine came on a spontaneous visit from Florence.
I love that a spontaneous visit in Europe can mean crossing borders, mountains and languages:-) It's so romantic.

She arrived on Saturday afternoon (which gave me enough time to sweep all the underwear under the bed & remove the crusties from the fridge) and stayed until Monday morning. I must say that it was very pleasing to have a bit of Florence in the house although she herself is Irish. Unfortunately she came bearing sad news - my bella bici 'Speranza' had been stolen in Florence just the night before. Now officially I have no bikes at all :-(

Naturally I took A to see all the sights of Basel and we ate like ravenous pigs at an Indian restuarant after some rarver disturbing pre-dinner conversation which is oft the case when one has been imbibing beforehand.

The following morning I made A some of my arabic coffee thatI had brought back from Syria. I have only made it once before and it was - I was told - too bitter. Determined not to make the same mistake I added a cane train worth of sugar to this batch which made it rarver sweet. True to her Irish affable form, A replied that she would drink this caffee, so she would, if it was the last thing she did.

O, how I love the Irish charm.

Monday, 21 September 2009

I've been feeling a bit down about poor old homeless Philomena Philpott of late, which is an excellent excuse to procrastinate!! So far today I have cleaned the kitchen, found the floor of my bedroom again, wrote a new to-do-list (then divided said list into 3 sub-to-do-lists) organised my teaching folders; tried to phone friends ( the phone is making a rude beeping noise at me); and am even contemplating folding the washing. I am sure it will all pass.

In the meantime the editor of Clockwork Phoenix has been sending me some nice little comments about my fish story which is better than a poke in the eye, I suppose.

"The Fish of Al-Kawthar's Fountain" by Joanna Galbraith: "Singing and dancing fish? A pond that is the source of all rain? A lonely young man who tends said fountain? This is a gentle, sweet story and I really liked it."

Review by Not if you were the Last Short Story on Earth

Joanna Galbraith's "The Fish of Al-Kawthar's Fountain," ..., delighted me. More full disclosure: write Syria into a story convincingly and you start the game with seven thousand bonus points. Write the story such that it reads like an oral tale, or a translation of Arabic material, and you earn seven thousand more before I even begin to consider plot and character. Although one of the simpler pieces, I was left rather charmed.

Review by SF Site Reviews

Joanna Galbraith's "The Fish of Al-Kawthar's Fountain" is an adorable (albeit somewhat bittersweet) story about a magic fountain, the fish that live in it, and their caretaker. I could easily see this being made into a Pixar short!

Review by Sequential Tart

that's nice, innit!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Last of the summer Rhine

Yesterday I decided to brave the rapid current of the River Rhine using the floating fish my mother bought me when she was visiting last month. These floating fish are very popular here. Basically you put your clothes, towels and valuables into the fish-shaped tube and then roll it up seven times before afixing it with a strap. Then you are supposed to leap into the Rhine River and float down on the inflatable fish before paddling to the shore like a rabid dog. The rabid dog paddling is to ensure you don't accidentally find yourself in France where rumour has it that the water is murkish brown instead of crystal clear - a Swiss rumour you understand!
I can't say I exactly leapt into the water - it was pretty cold on the extremities - but once I got caught in the current it was actually quite fun. I even starred in a few tourists photos and successfully managed to avoid colliding with a bridge and a ferry full of people. It was only at the end that I realised how fast the current was going - trying to reach the shore line is quite a test of strength and I wanted to look cool and knowing - like I had done this Rhine lark before - but I ended up looking like a scrabbling rat or even worse a desperate frog who knows exactly where her legs will go if she crosses the border by accident.

Immediately after I got out of the water grey clouds appeared in the sky. Autumn literally arrived as I towelled myself down. Now the weather has turned and tonight as I walked home I felt a chill around my neck and a cold nipping at both ears.

Huzzah for autumn, Isay! I love season changes - all of them - but I love autumn most of all. Leaves turning brown, the smell of roasting chestnuts in the air, the chance to wear my orange coat which looks like it has been knitted out of muppet wool. Ah happy days

Monday, 7 September 2009

SlowUp Basel

Soon I will be getting my insurance rebate for the bike I had stolen back in May. Then I have to go through the horror of finding a new bike. I hate shopping for things like bikes. Everyone has a different opinion as to what bike is best. I quite fancy a citybike with a basket and no gears but everyone sounds aghast when I mention it.
'But what about when you see a hill? ' they despair. 'You need gears for a hill.'
I tend to choose a new direction when confronted by any sort of rise in the earth so I feel this whole 'must-have-gears' thing is a little bit over-the-top - but I have seen citybikes with 3 gears so perhaps a compromise can be reached.
In two weeks time they have a day called SlowUp here in Basel where everyone gets to reclaim the streets on their bikes. Two routes are marked out one that makes a circle into Germany and the other which makes a circle into France. The two circles meet in the centre of Basel so you can do one circle or two - as slowly as you want:-) I believe both routes are relatively flat although that may just be a ruse to trick me into participating! Either way I still say poo-pah to gears - apparently there are plenty of places to stop and taste the delights of German and French cuisine a long the way so i'm sure any hills will be successfully ascended once I have been refuelled.

I am still very behind in catching up with my life right now so for those few who I owe letters, emails and phonecalls to - you are not forgotten - you have been listed! And you know how much I value my lists.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


It's another bright blue sky in Basel today (AARG where is the grey!!!) and I have been toiling at my desk trying to remember the forgotten art of 'lesson planning'. I seem to have lost all my skills in this area although no doubt there is a good reason for this. My brain couldn't possibly fit lesson-planning in with all my other recently acquired skills (eg, monosyllabic Arabic, running a bootcamp for my parents while trying to include enough time for napping and trashy magazine reading; turtle-petting 101!)

My parents left on Sunday which was sad for all involved but I think they had a great time here in The Schweiz. We actually did quite a lot of excursions to places I had never considered visiting before and dad managed to tick 'The Jungfraujoch' off his bucket list - quickly replacing it with a future trip to The Schilthorn to drink coffee a'la James Bond style. On Friday night we went out to celebrate his birthday which is next Sunday. I took him to a traditional Swiss restaurant where mum and I indulged in cheese fondue up to our eyeballs.

On Saturday we went on an excusion to Brunnen and Stoos. Brunnen is a lovely town lakeside with a pleasing Mediterranean feel to it. The view from the mountains above was spectacular although the three of us froze as we sat on the chairlift. Dad even offered to get his 'thing out' to warm me up - 'his thing' being a waterproof jacket' for all those gutter-brains out there.

We also happened upon a wedding in Stoos at a quaint church perched on a hill. An Alpine horn player came out to serenade the
bride and groom which thrilled the pares as they had never heard a horn 'live' before. A herd of very pretty cows complete with bells strolled over from a nearby pasture to listen to the music as well. It really was the most cheese-woi scene I think that I have seen so far. Made me look like the best bootcamp director though - fancy arranging a wedding and cows and horn players and yodellers and mountains all together at once.

Now they are gone though (sniff sniff) and I have no excuse not to get back in the swing of things. I hope to embrace my email inbox sometime very soon and pick my way through the remains of my publishing contact which are lying listlessly all around me. I think I am avoiding it actually - I might as well claim insurance for my stolen bike, get my liver tested ( after all my food problems), plan a few more lessons before I face anything really scary.