Friday, 30 December 2011

moet and milk

Yesterday I went out to the supermarket and came home with a bottle of Moet and a carton of milk. To be fair the milk came first ( I am a firm believer in calcium) and then I saw the pyramid of Moet  luring me over so I had to 'home' at least one of them. I figure this is ok because from here on in until the end of the year I probably won't see anybody I know since anybody I do know has escaped big ol' Basel for the new year. So at least I will be able to pour something nice over my breakfast cereal right!   Oh and the milk will be good with tea.

I don't think I'm even going to bother with some sort of reflection of the year. As far as I can tell it has been awful, it continues to be awful  and it's not suddenly going to be swell in two days time. All I can say though is please please please let the Arab mission to Syria work!!! Let the gift be healed. And let my favourite bead-maker find his joy.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Bretzel anyone

So I went and visited the Christmas Market in Colmar, France, a few days ago. Colmar is a pretty Alsatian town ( and sadly no  - it is not actually run by alsatians) which is about a forty-five minute train ride from Basel. I believe Colmar to be quite  shrewd because their Christmas Market remains open until December 31st instead of the usual before Christmas closing!! Surely such business acumen will lead to the resurrection of the entire European economy  if enough people buy buy buy.

Sadly for me I did not see much to buy buy buy.

I mean there were bretzels of course which should always be appreciated for their complicated knots.
And sweets too - if you like dried fruit and marzipan!

There was lots of other kitsch Christmas hoop-la too which can be admired from afar but should not be purchased at least not by me because kitsch things always have a way of finding their way into my heart and the do-not-bin pile. Quite cluttersome really.

Anyway my intentions were good but after I found no place serving fresh onion soup or tart I had to take myself home and make some myself.

Monday, 26 December 2011

The lady and the Lamp

So I  have always regarded myself as a bit of a bag-laydee and a proud one at that! Now it appears that I am a bit of a lamp-laydee too.

I mean obviously you are already familiar with crazy blue chandelier

There is also tree lamp.

Turtle lamp.

Lava lamp

And now I would like to introduce mushroom lamp

So on behalf of myself and all my lamps ( and bags) I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy New Year etc!!!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Dangerous Damper

Tonight I sat by the open fire at the Munster with another friend of mine from Brazil and cooked bread on a long stick . It tasted just like damper. It was a little pericoloso because there were three little boys  each with their own long poker-stick-of-bread waving it about in the fire and my face. Their father actually walked away and left them to it. I am surprised there wasn't some sort of eye massacre. Anyway despite the perils it was actually rather lovely sitting there and halfway through snow began to fall from the sky and the whole place looked pretty and other-worldly.
I then came home and baked gingerbread cookies which tasted enormously better than last week's scones. Honestly those things were inedible!!!
I am pleased because I have had a story accepted for publication by in their magazine Stupefying Stories. The editor said it was probably the fastest time in which he and the other editors have ever accepted a story. It must have only been about three hours which was a very nice experience for me. Often I send my stories out on lonesome cyber space journeys to find their home and I don't hear from them for ages if at all. I am hoping my other story which the editors at loved will also be accepted some time soon as this would help me feel as if I was finding my way ( at least literature-ly) again.

Friday, 16 December 2011

A sad day

This week has not been good for my lieblingsstadt Florence. The senseless murder of two Senegalese  traders in Dalmazia Square has saddened me deeply. These traders are as much a part of Florence's rich fabric as its sculptures, its designers and its damp dark cobbled streets. A truly terrible thing.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Activities for 'one'

Today the shops were open in Basel. Woo Hoo. This is great because it means the centre of town is humming with activity instead of undergoing a short course of death which is its usual Sunday position. Of course tomato handbag and I decided we should go out and be a part of the hum for a couple of hours. It was either that or sort out my sock drawer.
I like taking tomato handbag out because she always attracts smiles from people and it is nice to see people smile instead of grimace. The downside of tomato handbag ( I know - almost unbelievable)  is that she is a spendaholic.
'Oooh look Joanna. See that dress it would go great with me, don't you think?'
'Ooh Joanna look at that jar of  tomato chutney -I think it's my brother. We have to give it a home now.'
'Ooh Joanna look at that lovely little purse shaped like a spaceman.  It will fit perfectly inside me.'
So yes I did come home with rather a lot of shopping. Three dresses in fact - two of them almost the same just different colours. I actually wore a brown version of the dress earlier this week at school and attracted so much praise I thought I should probably get one in each colour - you gotta take the glory where you can!
 After all my shopping I went to my  handbag nemesis Manor for a cup of coffee. They do the best cappuccino which almost makes up for the fact that it is really a den of thieves.

When I got home I decided to do things with the word 'one' in it like make scones and paint stones. Obviously as you can see these scones are my first effort ever and are not the lovely smooth delights one would find in a Devonshire teashop.  The potential for a cheesy look-I-made-scones face though could not be resisted.

 After making the scones I decided to  sketch a few outlines on some stones - a girl with a balloon, a whirling dervish, a dog and some flowers.  Here are some stones I have been working on recently.

I just have to finish by saying last night I watched the most sublime performance of the Argentine Tango by Jason Donovan!!!! I know I know.  But really it was absolutely stunning.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Festival of the stomp

You know when I moved out of my apartment back at the end of October my landlord was super nice. Everything was hunky dory. No problems. Lots of 'schon' and ' wunderbar' and ' kein problem.' When I mailed him a week later about returning my deposit suddenly things weren't so hunky dory after all. I received a mail back listing all manner of problems that he had with the apartment as well as a short spiel on how much cleaning he had done (which is bollocks because I spent the weekend scrubbing that place!) Many of the problems I know for a fact had nothing to do with me e.g. the central heating, the bathroom ventilator etc so I rang him and muddled my way through as best I could  in German! Anyway about halfway through he asked me if I had house insurance (which I do - good Swiss resident that I am.) Well suddenly his voice became light again almost jovial. Oh well then this is no problem. I can use  your deposit on all those things that you didn't do but I'd like to fix up since, well, there's some money going spare and you can claim it back on insurance. Everybody's happy then!
It actually made me feel sick becuase I could see the scam unfolding before my eyes.
In the end I have decided not to claim insurance as I do not want to admit fault for things that are not my fault and I can't fight him as I have neither the language skills nor the strength to do so. So i will just let him keep my deposit because luckily I am rich in imagination and hopefully  that should feed me when my finances can't.
Sometimes I feel as if my heart has not only been dragged from out of my  body this year but there has been some sort of  festival-of-the-stomp convenved to make sure it never really finds its beat again!


Still I had a positive mail from an editor today who really likes a story I wrote about  a man who is responsible for keeping broken hearts - apt really! So there is a chance of publication there which is great!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Wo ist mein mojo?

Today was probably the worst class I have ever taught. 
Can a teacher actually lose their mojo after only one day off? It was truly awful. And as it unravelled in front of me I realised I didn't have the right spirit or even the ability to fix it. 
To be fair it was hopefully not all my fault - the class was small - the topic was horrid ( reported speech) - the students were tired - but somehow I feel responsible for all of this and it is going to eat at me now.  I know my self-confidence/ my joie de vivre this year has largely hung by a shred but today it seemed to plummet even more deeply. 

I suppose I should take heart from a review by Dark Cargo  that came out a few days ago about CP1.

" My favourite from the collection is “The Moon-Keeper’s Friend” by Joanna Galbraith, because it speaks to my sense of wonder and delight, its pun on the word moon being the almond sugar on that little pastry of a story."

But after today's little teaching disaster somehow  it doesn't!

Monday, 5 December 2011

A day off

Christmas market in Barfusserplatz
Today I took a day off from work. It felt good not to teach or to praise or cajole. I had planned to spend the day at home fiddling about with some writing I am working on. Maybe paint some stones as well or perhaps even lie like one too. But then this afternoon I thought what is the point of a day off if you don't go out and do day off things - like shopping and coffee. So I ended up buying myself some nice underwear and going for a wander around the Basel Christmas markets. Every year they have a market down in Barfusserplatz. Nothing ever changes here. The stalls are the same, the Gluhwein tastes the same. The only thing that is different is the commemorative Gluhwein mugs which says 2011 instead of 2010, 2009 etc. I used to like these mugs. Not so much any more.
This year they have also set up a satellite Christmas market up near the Munster (the Cathedral).  The stalls are different and well spaced out. The lights look like giant snowflakes between the trees. I will have to go back at night to get a picture of these. There is an area with open fires where you can cook bread etc and a Wunsch Buch to make you wishes. The Wunsch Buch used to be down in the Rathaus ( the aptly named townhall.) I remember going there two years ago and someone had written ' Tod FC Zurich' Death to FC Zurich. (FC Zurich is the main rival football team of Basel.) Somehow I suspect this was not in keeping with the book's intention. I am happy to report that this time the book was filled with illegible children's writing and one-legged Santa drawings which is much better.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

News flash

The first volume in the ground-breaking, genre-bending, boundary-pushing CLOCKWORK PHOENIX anthology series, newly available in digital format.

"Lush descriptions and exotic imagery startle, engross, chill and electrify the reader, and all 19 stories have a strong and delicious taste of weird."
— Publishers Weekly

Includes critically-acclaimed and award-nominated stories by Catherynne M. Valente, David Sandner, John Grant, Cat Rambo, Leah Bobet, Michael J. DeLuca, Laird Barron, Ekaterina Sedia, Cat Sparks, Tanith Lee, Marie Brennan, Jennifer Crow, Vandana Singh, John C. Wright, C.S. MacCath, Joanna Galbraith, Deborah Biancotti and Erin Hoffman.

"A very strong first volume ... Established writers and new names all are in good form here."
— Locus

With a whimsical introduction and new afterword by Nebula Award-nominated editor Mike Allen.

"Set somewhere between fantasy, SF, and something else ... I highly recommend the book to anyone looking for top-notch fiction irrespective of genre labels."
— The Harrow


The City of Blind Delight • Catherynne M. Valente
Old Foss Is the Name of His Cat • David Sandner
All the Little Gods We Are • John Grant
The Dew Drop Coffee Lounge • Cat Rambo
Bell, Book and Candle • Leah Bobet
The Tarrying Messenger • Michael J. DeLuca
The Occultation • Laird Barron
There Is a Monster Under Helen's Bed • Ekaterina Sedia
Palisade • Cat Sparks
The Woman • Tanith Lee
A Mask of Flesh • Marie Brennan
Seven Scenes from Harrai's 'Sacred Mountain' • Jennifer Crow
Oblivion: A Journey • Vandana Singh
Choosers of the Slain • John C. Wright
Akhila, Divided • C. S. MacCath
The Moon-Keeper's Friend • Joanna Galbraith
The Tailor of Time • Deborah Biancotti
Root and Vein • Erin Hoffman

Friday, 2 December 2011

lay like a stone

This week I have taken to laying in my bed as flat as a stone. Perhaps some giant creative being will pick me up and start painting on me soon. That would be nice.

I did resurrect myself briefly this evening to go to a student's shop opening. Esempio Piu. She designs the most beautiful clothes although they are way too expensive for me. I didn't stay very long as I didn't know anybody and I felt horribly shy! ( I was also a little concerned I might spill my glass of prosecco over one of her lovely dresses.) I tried an oyster though - which really truly was like swallowing a lemon-flavoured booger.

This has been a hard week.

Monday, 28 November 2011

aw romance!

Last week I had two furry people come to stay. Ceylon and Tipsy. It was a litle precarious at first as Ceylon was very shy and would not eat or drink. I spent most of  the weekend wandering about the house like a first time parent crying 'why won't the baby eat!!' Eventually I discovered if  I carried him around like a baby he became more comfortable and began to eat and drink. In fact by the end he had definitely got his mojo back as I woke up one night to find him romancing Tipsy in the bed beside me.
And honestly he was actually romancing her - none of this pounce-on-her-from-behind rubbish.
He was nibbling her neck with his paw cushioning her head and she had her paws wrapped around his shoulders. Then when they were finished he spooned her for the rest of the night!!
Now they are gone though and I am sad and alone once more. Fortunately Rita came over last Friday and we were able to chase chocolate mice in honour of the cats :-)

Friday, 25 November 2011

go the kindle

Mike Allen, editor of the Clockwork Phoenix series, is releasing the books in a kindle form. This is great news for me because I have a story in both CP1 and CP2  which means a huge launch party, lots of royalties and instant fame. Ok - no - it doesn't mean any of this but it does mean people will be able to buy a digital version of these books at a much cheaper price which will hopefully increase my current fanbase from 1 to 2.  Hooray!!!!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Divine courage, freedom and light

In yoga we are often asked to make an intention for our practice. Often my intention is just to make it to the next yoga class. Sometimes, however, my intentions are far more important than this and right now I am sending all of my energy to The Gift . In the coming days he begins a very serious battle for his life  and I wish him strength and courage and love and peace.

We have come into this exquisite world 
to experience ever and ever more deeply 
our divine courage, 
and light!


Saturday, 19 November 2011

mmm cream tea

Today I took my Russian friends to the Anglican Christmas Bazaar. They told me it was like entering  Diagon Alley in Harry Potter - a whole other world that exists around them but they cannot find for themselves. I have to say that - to me -  this particular bazaar doesn't have that much in common with the alley especially given as it is held in a particularly ugly, modern building and the most exotic food you will probably find there is Bird's Custard - but ok yes there are the Morris Dancers I suppose. But anyway for them it was exotic and exciting to be surrounded by English speakers and to try English cuisine - cornish pasties, cottage pie and cream tea. Actually the cream tea went down a particular treat ( as well it ought!)  and in fact it brought real tears to the eyes of my Russian mama friend  who said ( in Russian) that she believed herself to be at home for a while. At home in her blood, she meant.  I mean she is from St.Petersburg,  descendant of White Russians I believe, but her grandfather used to play cricket while no one around him did. She is convinced there is something  very English lurking in her blood just like I too have an Uncle Ahmed who makes perfect fattoush, an Aunty Maria who make perfect limoncello and a cousin Dimitri with his own feta cheese brand.  I understand her completely. Anyway it was a nice experience to see the bazaar through new eyes and I also managed to pick up two jars of homemade tomato chutney which always pleases the soul.


C'mon Syria-  find your peace!
I wait with a hopeful heart tonight.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Never a dull morning

Yesterday morning I told my 9 a.m. beginner class about my stolen handbag in Klein Basel ( which is where Manor is.) Their response was: 'Well it is known as Little Istanbul.' They all started rolling about laughing but to be honest it disappointed me a little bit. I  mean don't get me wrong I have my own sadness with Turkey - actually not with Turkey itself - I love Turkey - one of the best holidays of my life was in Turkey! (My own grief is actually at a deeply personal level and I would never judge a country or its people on the basis of this one experience.) But I digress-  for what I am trying to say is I hate racism  and I hate it in my classroom - I really hate it. Fortunately the students moved on from this pretty quickly with the very late arrival of my 'Mice to meet you' student who was as drunk as a skunk. As soon as she entered the room the air became thick with alcohol and she began staggering around the room giving out biscuits and chocolates. I called an early coffee break and took her down to have an espresso. She is a  poor elderly French woman and it actually saddened me to see her in such a state. I have always smelt a whiff of the sauce on her but on this morning she was clearly very very drunk :-( I don't know what I shall do if she comes like this to class again. I know it bothers the other students but I also cannot in good conscience send her out into the cold winter air in that state.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

like a bridge...

I don't know why but whenever I do the bridge pose in yoga I start crying. Maybe it is the sheer pain of it or perhaps it is  it is simply called the bridge pose  because tears always flow under you whenever you try it. I haven't been to yoga for the last six weeks as I have been doing a superb job of neglecting my body but when I returned to class today I learned that  Isabella, my  yoga teacher, is leaving Switzerland in a month. Maybe that's why I cried. Actually I already knew she was leaving because  Vi ( my waxing buddy) had warned me but just hearing it made me realise that yet another person is going/ disappearing/ leaving/ escaping/ vanishing/ bolting...

At least this weekend I will be having two visitors - of the furry sort.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

My baggy and chaz bangelis

Had my bag stolen while I was in Manor Department store yesterday. I don't usually do my grocery shopping in Manor because it is a little bit expensive for peasant teachers such as myself but I had been invited to dinner and Manor make the best little fruit tarts. ( The closest I can find in all of Switzerland to the ones you can buy in every patisserie in Italy.) The theft happened very fast because (being a finely-tuned bag-lady) I became aware of my missing appendage within minutes of it happening. The worst bit was the bag had the keys to my apartment and because  I have just moved I hadn't given the spare set to anyone yet. Anyway I am not going to bore you with the whole story but I have to say that I found  the staff and security in Manor particularly unsympathetic and unhelpful . The police were a bit better ( except for the guy at the front desk who appeared most incredulous that I should be troubling with him with a theft at all)  but I have seen kids eat a plate full of brussel sprouts quicker than the way they moved to assist me. 

zum bespiel
'Wie ist deine Tasche.'
 'Es ist blau mit eine geld Giraffe.'
A minute later, a bag is handed into the station which is made of leather and is pink.
 'Oooh is das deine Tasche?'
' Ist Das blau???'

The policeman then (almost gaily) informed me just how many hundreds of franks it would take for me to get the key service to help. :-(   Anyway after he wrote my information down on a scrap of paper I went to my wonderful Slovakian friend, Rita, and we called my mobile which was still in my bag. A while later it  called back and it was the police with the bag. All my money was gone but at least the keys were there. Thank goodness. You know it was only a bag and  while losing the money is disappointing I think what was even more disappointing was the attitude of the people around me.  My friend said this is probably an example of where Swiss neutrality is taken too far. No one wants to get involved. They throw their arms up in the air and say 'It wasn't me. It's not my problem.' I suppose with normal people on the street I can understand this ( well actually I don't - see previous blog entry ) but when store security and and (to a lesser extent) the police are so disinterested it leaves a very bad feeling in your heart. 


On a brighter note- it is chaz bangeli season right now in Basel. Chaz Bangelis are basically baguettes filled with fondue cheese. They are delicious although you should always eat them while wearing a raincoat or a bin bag because the dribble factor is incredibly high. I even have a friend who has nicknamed his penis - the chaz - in honour of this wonderful invention.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

youch and yay

So my best girl friend here in Basel is Vi and I thank the stars (and the comets too) for her.  She has been so kind to me this year even as I have wept vats of tears into her lovely homemade cappuccinos. We always speak in English  because my Portuguese consists of 'Caipirinha' and 'another Caipirinha please'.  Anyway I recently decided that I should do something to bring me culturally closer to my southern hemisphere amiga so I decided to go the full Brazilian - if you catch my drift. And Vi was such a great amiga she even came with me to hold my hand and entertain my head. In truth it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. Sometimes when I winced the Brazilian lady in charge would go ' ow...heh heh heh' or 'your husband -very lucky man' !?! The best bit by far was when it was finished and she brought out a mirror to show me my new hair cut. I mean really -what are you supposed to say at that point? 'Oooh yes. It really suits me, don't you think' or 'maybe a bit more fringe next time!'
On a more erudite note I received this wonderful email the other day from the editor of Independent Ink magazine - a literary adventure of daringly off beat short stories!

Dear Joanna Galbraith,

Thank you for sending us "Ulla's Gift". We love it and would like to publish it in the next issue of Independent Ink Magazine. 

I only include the email text because you have no idea how rare it is  for struggling writers such as myself to hear things like 'We love it' from editors.  Although this story of mine has been floating around for a while I am really glad to have finally 'homed' it. The real test for me though will also be to complete some newer pieces -to find that rhythm, that joy I lost somehow.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Terrible day

D flew to Australia yesterday.
Truly awful.

 I mean how can you not love that!

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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Things I know...

So tonight is the last night I will sleep in my apartment.
I don't actually officially leave until the end of the month but as my bed is going tomorrow I might as well follow it.

I'm not sure how I feel about leaving this place. It's certainly been a haven at times but it has also been a hell. I know I didn't move into it at my happiest and I am not leaving it at my happiest either but I hope, at least, there were some moments of happiness somewhere in between.
What I do know though from living in this apartment is the following:
* Don't run out of toilet paper * Don't get undressed by the open window - if you can see the doctors in their scrubs they can see you too! * If you close the lid on the cereal box it really will last longer and be less weevilly!! * The floor can be a very beautiful place.
* When in doubt or pain take a bath - add lots of bubbles for extra cushioning or to muffle sound.* Don't let people who haven't found their peace yet take yours instead! * Always be nice to Abdullah the elevator - he picks you up no matter the weather! * Screw-top wine is better for a laydee on her own - those pesky corks get stuck sometimes! * Never (again)  live in a place where you can see your work desk from your bed! * Don't leave transparent plastic A4 sheets on slippery wooden floors.*If you leave cat litter trays, plant pots, incense sticks, (anything really) on the window ledge the wind will steal it!* always hang a crazy blue chandelier in the middle of your room.