Saturday, 31 January 2015

Are You The Master Of Your House Or Is Your House The Master Of You?

A house is just a house after all.

They said that one of the factors that kept many Americans unable to find work during the last big recession, was the fact that they were tied to their house. A house that they had put oodles of debt on in order to make it bigger, better and prettier than necessary. Picking up sticks and moving to another city where there might have been work, wasn't possible.

The most beautiful house is just a house after all. A house has four walls and a roof and cannot replace your health, family or well being.

In one of those passing conversations I had the proverbial penny drop for me. Asking an acquaintance how their renovations were coming along, she said that they were finished or close to it. Well, cheerfully I replied how nice it must feel to finally put away those work boots and merely enjoy some down time.

Oh no, it seems that their abode was going to be repaired some more almost like a constant repair loop. By the way, I know their house is a new and perfect one and to be honest, I had a ping of guilt for the fact that we don't spend all our time ( spare or otherwise ) on our house.

While I told her that with us, house repairs were on hold until our budget improved but that we totally loved our living space, I understood an important life lesson.

If your house takes up all your free time and money, it tends to morph from an asset into a liability.

A house should be a lot of things, starting with a sanctuary from the stresses of life to a place that holds all your stuff. But a house shouldn't absorb all your free time and available money.

The adage of Less is more is a perfect fit for a house.

  • Less worry.....more time to relax and have a life.
  • Less cleaning.....more quality time with family that doesn't involve nagging about errant dirty socks.
  • Less money required to keep it in shape....more money available to go on holiday, go dancing, go fishing, or anything that blows your hair back!


Friday, 30 January 2015

Is There Anything Better Than A Snowy Day?

Even our sunny Burgenland got a steady dollop of snow yesterday.

Before you really see the snow you get to hear about it. One of our neighbours told us as early as Monday about the heavy snow fall expected on Friday. Fair enough, he was almost spot on give and take a day or so.

Snow tends to sneak up on us and only when you turn your head this way and that way do you differentiate between a raindrop and a snowflake. Within an hour, those tiny flakes transform the mundane winter landscape into a picturesque landscape that would have been a perfect postcard image.

In the two hours that I was out visiting someone, my car was camouflaged by a few inches of snow and I now see the point of having a car with a garishly bright colour. Our subtle grey tends to make it an unwitting target for the snow plows. They just don't see it.

Driving back home was a lesson in bravery for me. The road hadn't been plowed yet and our driveway had yet to be shovelled. To get our car back into its bay I had to clear the snow off our driveway first. Two tries beforehand had my heart beating faster as halfway up the driveway, the wheels started to strike and refused to go further making me a passenger in a backwards sliding car.

Even though this might seem annoying, a heavy snow fall is a magical sight. The snow is a brilliant shade of white and even Bob, while he was standing at the window, was hypnotized by the divine spectacle of thousands of snowflakes falling from above in seemingly random patterns.

Mid afternoon, I decided to walk to the other side of our village to see if an elderly lady had enough heating, milk and so forth. The snowplow still hadn't done its rounds and it made it easier to walk. Snow does have traction and grip, however an exuberance on my part had me connect my derriere to the ground rather smartly. As it was right in front of a window the only part of me that got hurt was my pride.

Now for the pleasant bit. When it snows all day long, one might think to wait until it stops before you climb into a warm outfit and run your shovel up and down the driveway. But no, it needs to be done a few times in between. It is jolly hard work, because it tends to freeze your fingers into a state of numbness.

Walking around my neighbourhood yesterday afternoon was rather nice and cozy. Almost every driveway and sidewalk was a hive of activity and as everyone likes to take a break and shoot the breeze, it was a delightful walk home filled with mini-conversations. Naturally the snow featured heavily in it, but on the whole it tended to have the smooth edges of a well balanced conversation.

One of my pit stops was outside Ferry's house. He is one those fabulous village characters, one who rides around the village on his motorized lawnmower and is always seen sporting a pair of original ( eh, bought back in the 70's perhaps? ) aviator Rayban sunglasses. As he is into his seventieth decade and still chops wood each and every day in the forest, I have a lot of respect and admiration for him.

We chatted for quite some time and were interrupted a few times, firstly by a quizzical neighbour driving past at snail speed and stopping in the road to ask what we were talking about and secondly, by another neighbour who had a mini motorized snowplow. A snowplow that he wasn't going to stop for us and if we hadn't jumped off the sidewalk ( and into one of those big pile of snow that collects next to a main road ) we would have been snow plow fodder...

Village life is this B's knees!


Romantic, isn't it?
A slice of Eisenberg life!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Courageous Women Through Time Even In Our Small Burgenland Village.

Somehow it's mostly the small things that pack a punch!

Strong and courageous women, or talking about them seems to be in favour again. Wherever your glance happens to fall, there is a story of one. The tide of this popular subject rolls onto shore every decade or so. The eighties used its ridiculous dress code to clad women with a pair of shoulder pads. Maybe society thought that inner strength needed to be enhanced visually?

Gosh, my shoulder pads were treasured and hauled out for any and all tops. When any of us look back upon that unfortunate dress code, we tend to cringe in shame about our " linebacker " shoulders enhanced by that over teased hairstyles.

How much ozone damage did we cause by our constant need to have our hair stand up in that powerful halo? Going to a disco meant taking a travel size hairspray along in your handbag and spraying liberally...Ladies bathrooms in the eighties were dominated by wafting troughs of cheap hairspray.
It seems a miracle that any of us found husbands because we must have looked rather scary and invincible! The one saving grace in the whole eighties dress debacle was that online ( Facebook & co ) was still a twinkle in the developer's eyes.

The tide of strong women has this time brought along leaders of major companies, government, online newspapers and places of influence. All well and good, but courage and strength in a woman needn't be linked to how much influence, money or power she has. On the contrary, often it's the average woman, the one you hear about in a passing conversation, that makes you sit up and have admiration.

One of my part time jobs is being a sort of social liaison in our village. Hats off to the village committee for being so progressive. Many times this affords me the privilege to have the most brilliant conversations with the older and at times lonely villagers. With all our modern technology and ways we do tend to forget that having an ordinary conversation with people is the best way to feel good.

Yesterday afternoon I visited a lady in our village. As we were hurtling down an avenue of conversation which by the way had many off shoots, this delightful lady ( in her mid seventies ) told me in passing about her Grandmother who had left to find work in America. Do you also like to make mental images of things you hear? I was sitting there with such admiration of this lady's Grandmother and already shaping my mental picture of her.

We sat there and with the aid of her mother's birth date and her excellent memory, ( it might surprise you how detailed and vast the memory of a pensioner is ) tried to put a date and time on this adventure and settled on more or less a few years after the turn of the century. And no, not the 21st but the 20th one.

Our village is tiny even now but I can imagine that it was even tinier back then. As with any emigration wave, it has to do with finding work. Eh, not to be too blunt, but back then people relied on themselves and not the government in all its various guises. No work to be had? Go further afield to find some.

I keep on picturing this courageous young woman starting off on her adventure. Remember, that in those days there were no aeroplanes, no telephones and no electricity expect for the privileged few. When you start to fill out the mental image of this gigantic undertaking, you cannot help but give a mental bow.

Fast forward a century and to all the modern technology it contains and'll agree that moving to different continents or even different cities in your own country is almost as easy as snapping your fingers. Through television, Internet and books you have some sort of idea what awaits you.

Back in 1905, travelling as a young woman to America from a rural village in Burgenland meant that you had to have courage, determination and strength and somehow that makes me wonder what any Burgenland woman of that ilk could have achieved in our modern time?


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

It Seems That Even In Winter, All Roads Lead To Vines.

Thankfully there are wonderful vintners who turn their vines into wine...

At times I do get a bit blase about the calibre of wines produced in a mere few square mile from us. The magic square mile indeed and I heard a whisper of a hint that our wines are getting an extra avenue to showcase their lustre & muster.

The Ratschen is a thoroughbred among the eateries in our village and surrounds. Now and again it is rather nice to have a meal served the silver service way and have it enhanced by the perfect wine ( or vice versa ? ). As you can imagine, their wine cellar is a smorgasbord of choice that can entice any oenophile,..oh but to spend the weekend exploring it all. The wines have an extremely low carbon footprint too.

Well, it is whispered that a top chef is augmenting the Ratschen. A 3 Hauben chef would make our village feature again in Viennese circles. Did I mention that there are ten cottages for hire on the premises? Oh yes, arrive on a Friday and be on the receiving end of a round of culinary treats lubricated with a harmonious glass of wine matched perfectly from an extensive array of our wines.

Having been on the receiving end of Vienna traffic and the time it takes to go anywhere within Vienna, I am astounded and amazed that not more Viennese take a quick trip to our area for a weekend away? Good golly, it takes me 2 hours and an accomplished Viennese driver a mere 90 minutes...( Have a look at the Ratschen )

Thoughts are unbound and tend to flit into all directions. This morning I wanted to show you the road less traveled through our forest as it did receive a light dusting of powdery snow yesterday morning.

Romantic, isn't it? The stillness of this winter morning was only broken by the hopping about of birds on crackling leaves.
Finding beauty in the ordinary...
Sturdy and patient but comfortingly, ever present.
All roads in our village do lead to vines!

By the way, here is a link to Wine Tasting Event for 3 of our top Vintners in cities around Austria.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Many Facets Of Becoming An Octogenarian.

Eighty really is the new sixty.

Think about it, turning eighty is a milestone of course, but it also tells a story of its own. Being eighty means that you are a walking encyclopedia of the good times that were had along the sometimes curvy yet sure path to a new era.

Anyone in that age group has plenty of battle scars earned by living through tough, sometimes extremely tough times but somehow those were the times ( often reviewed paradoxically as their best times ) that molded their character with an inner strength that they discovered in themselves. .

Life was less complicated and dare I say much more fun and enjoyable then, and those fortunate enough to have straddled the divide between the pre and post Internet times have the best of both worlds. What those in their twenties only experience through a myopic and rather distorted looking glass of a search engine, an octogenarian had the privilege to experience first hand.

Just about anyone who is on the westward side of sixty has that comforting ability to deflate most pumped up problems of those on the eastern side of sixty. Problems, what problems? When you have experienced the perils of living through a war, the only important mainstay of any life is that

you have a life and enough food to sustain it.
yes, it might sound simple, but when you stop and think about it, those two seemingly minor facts are the be all and end all of a good life. If more of us were to imbibe the comforting aura of anyone westward of sixty, most of our perceived obstacles to what we think is a life worth achieving, would be felled in their track.
With an almost ruthless honesty, they can illuminate the faulty fabric of our lifestyle and show the many holes in it and make us see the futility of striving for that lifestyle in the first place.

It was Albert's ( my step-dad ) eightieth birthday yesterday and it was an open house for all and sundry to drop by. Cakes, platters of local delicacies, schnapps and wines were making the tables groan with the added weight.

Our village has the most delightful tradition as you cross over to being called an authority on history. The mayor and dignitaries come to your house to wish you good fortune and take copious pictures of the event. A special mayoral letter is printed too. It starts at eighty and every subsequent half decade the walls get filled with more. Nice.

Living in a small village like ours, makes it extra special to celebrate the big milestones. Friends, family and neighbours drop in for either a quick cup of coffee ( schnapps too depending on the time of day ) or they stay for a leisurely and delightful afternoon. A table filled with more than vittles, a table filled with laughter, good cheer and friends.

Of course the birthday boy was extremely thrilled each time the phone rang ( and it was often ) as his family and friends who live a bit further away, were wishing him a happy birthday. Albert was beaming from ear to ear all evening.


Happy happy Birthday Albert! Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!! ( That is my mum on his knee )

Monday, 26 January 2015

The 75th Streif Lost Its Bite.

One can't argue against nature but definitely against TV producers!

America has its Superbowl, England its F.A. Cup, South Africa the Curry Cup and Austria has the Streif. As most tend to assume that living in Austria is like living on the set of Heidi, you might understand that alpine skiing is a major sport here.

Last week I thought that only I set my schedule around the Streif run, but on Friday night, while out at the lake house, which is the headquarters for the Anglers of our village ( odd how Bob goes there on Sunday morning without any type of fishing rod ) just about everyone around the table was looking forward to the Streif. No one was going to stray even an inch from their TV screens.

Yes, the Streif is a big deal and even for those odd souls who don't care either way, the backdrop and background to the Streif is littered with the A-list, Arnold, celebrities and those wanting to be. Formula One sent a timely reminder for us fans by being there in the form of Nikki Lauda and Christian Horner. Even Geri Halliwell ( old spice ? ) was seen dangling on the periphery, as she always does!

The imminent race had me stay home the whole day. As nature gave us a big reminder of what matters, the persistent fog meant a start time that kept on moving further out. As annoying as this was, the safety of the skiers is top priority and once you see the ride they have to perform on waxed skies and at over 140 kph down an extremely steep, curvy and seemingly endless slope, you would agree with the delayed start.

What took everyone by surprise was how much the run was shortened because of the fog. Almost half the distance was slashed for the run. What was close to 2 minutes turned into just under 60 seconds. Again, fair enough, safety first.

The overall race time was now more or less cut in half. All over Austria, Streif fans were kept prisoners in their own home while awaiting this run. When the first skier finally flew out the starter gate, I was enthroned on our couch with all my creature comforts at hand. Wow, the excitement was here.

As that song from the 80's says: " I should have known better..." Each run was more or less a minute which already meant we were robbed of a minute of nail biting scenes. One could have hoped that the TV producers would be so kind as to let us see at least that left over minute...but no, they only showed the skiers when they were 22 seconds in the race.

You know, if I had had a phone number I would have called and complained bitterly.
. With only showing us this 30 second clip of some skiers, they took an all the air out of our feverish excitement.

This was ZDF, and when I quickly switched over to Eurosport they were stuck with the Australian Open. Next season we have decided to augment our viewing with all the ORF channels
( Austrian and worth the extra fee ) because they will understand what it means to be a Streif fan... I hope?


Sunday, 25 January 2015

A Delightful Oasis Of Pleasurable Silence Has Settled In Our House.

A pleasure of such magnitude that only a fellow club member could comprehend.

Last week a friend of ours called and asked whether we would be interested in taking a few books she wanted to get rid of. When I heard the word book, my sensors went on high alert and when she uttered the magic by word of English, I was almost speechless with anticipation.

Reading is one of those activities that you either love or not. Reading shapes us and who we are. Reading is sadly becoming a lost art. At a get together the other night, I happened to mention how reading ( anything ) improves the old grey cells and might keep them healthy and on track. Suffice to say, that this idea was not seconded very much.

I mentioned to Bob the divine prospect of yet more English books coming to find a home with us. Bob's like a slow burner. He listens, gives a noncommittal shrug and carries on as if he has never heard anything. Only when he asked me:

" When can we go and fetch the books? "
did it become apparent how much he was looking forward to them too. Oh yes, Bob is a definitive founder member of our reading club ( in fact, that was another attractive facet of Bob's when we started dating. There is nothing more attractive than a man who's a prolific reader.)

Our friend did say she had oodles of books to give us, but we both were a bit hesitant to take her " literally " just in case there were only 3-4 books...Well, we needn't have worried at all. There was a treasure trove of books awaiting our selection. Bob and I kept on looking at each other in happy euphoria and secretly put mental stamps of who reads what first on them.

It takes a fellow book lover to understand the magnitude of such a gift. We got similar treasure boxes from America and South Africa last year and somehow there is a guardian angel of ours who ensures we are fully stocked with mental adventures and thoughts. He nudges our family and friends at just the right moment...and it was, as we have just started to re-read our treasures yet again.

To all who have given us those treasured books....

Thank you so much!
When we were driving home yesterday afternoon, with our treasures on the backseat, it was a miracle that we didn't float home on a wave of divine anticipation of living vicariously through the fictional vicissitudes of others.


Nice, isn't it?
Bob specifically chose this book as well and I look forward to the culinary treats that are in store for me.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

What's Worse Than Not Winning The Lotto?

Picking all the correct numbers and not collecting your millions before the deadline!

Eh, no, it didn't happen to me but almost to a guy in France. The other day they had a news segment on the radio which sent a cold shiver down my spine and I am sure that others felt it too. How could it not.

A guy in France had purchased a Lotto ticket some time back but had never got around to having it checked. Again, who doesn't? So this little slip of paper ( called dream makers by some ), was in his wallet next to other miscellaneous stuff....receipts, money etc.

For all we know, this little slip might have easily gone the way of other receipts. Straight into the bin. But lucky for this chap, his guardian angels must have nudged him along to go and have this Lotto slip seen to. Yes, he scanned it at the shop.

Somehow I can just picture him buying a packet of cigarettes, some chips, possibly a cool drink and casually holding out his Lotto slip for a scan. Maybe he was excepting a few quid to come his way or that eternal Sorry, try again, but I am fairly sure he wasn't expecting to win over 70 million Euros....


Woohoo for him. But the punchline and the line that made me break out in cold sweat, was when they said:

He collected his winnings just in time. A few weeks later, and the winnings would have been forfeited.

When I told Bob this story, he immediately rounded up those few stray tickets we have lying about to take to the shop. They say one shouldn't trust the Internet and maybe my habit of only using it for verifying my chances of a life of ease must stop.

Of course the only other alternative is to go to our village shop...but as the opening song of Cheers says:

It's a place where everyone knows your name!

Make today your Lotto check day; you never know...


Friday, 23 January 2015

Warning: Flash Photography Can Be Damaging...

Has anyone told those poor lambs on the red carpet yet?

Just about any news segment these days comes with a warning of: Be careful, there is a bit of flash photography coming up! and do you know what, I look away. It's only natural when someone tells you that it might be damaging to you.

We have all got the odd photo of ourselves where we might resemble a werewolf at one extreme or appear to have had a little bit too much fondness for the bottle on the other extreme. The red eye is not only an early plane ride but the bane of many " surprise " photos.

Who doesn't freeze up as soon as you know a camera is upon you. A couple of thoughts literally race across our brain...

Which side is my good side / should I smile / should I look slightly up or down / oh god, this flash will make me close my eyes...
but when that flash goes off, it takes a while to see anything apart from a bright light!

No, it can't be healthy. No, it doesn't make us look that much prettier and in any case, at times that stupid flash only points a magic marker to wrinkles.

Pure amateur stuff. But what about the celebrities who endure eons of flashes going off in their direction? Goodness, at least now I know why they tend to favour dark sunglasses. Not only to hide a hangover but make it possible to stand there with their eyes closed behind said sunglasses. At least I would do that.

The more I think about this, the more admiration I have for those caught by hundreds of flashes going off aimed in their direction ( we only get to see the reflections of flashes ). Remember how bizarre it was when we saw Prince William and Catherine's engagement announcement?

To blame is our insatiable appetite for any tidbit, morsel, photo, and a reason why they are paid millions. Would we still see their latest movie, creation or gamesmanship if they didn't strike the pose in front of a barrage of flashes? Ah, who knows...

In the next few weeks the World Cup of Flash photography is coming up. The annual Oscars. The slow parade over a lengthy red carpet can't be much of a picnic. These stars have the constitution of oxen it seems. Parading from one set of flash photography to the next. But what about us? I think the red carpet snooping before the Oscars needs to be augmented by a sturdy pair of dark sunglasses...


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Carlsbad Spa In The Czech Republic, Moser Glassware & History Galore.

Our area of Europe is steeped in the most amazing history.

In our era of now, today, this second & can't miss a thing, even the art of taking in the waters at a spa is not what it used to be. The idea of going for a fortnight has been eschewed for a quick weekend. Not the best way to relax at a spa now is it?

Any Georgette Heyer fan worth her salt will know the importance of going to a spa to partake in the waters. Apart from the health benefit, it is a social highlight of course. Bob and I saw a series of programs about the world famous spa in Carlsbad Here is a list of all the places to stay.. We saw, fell in love with it and both of us made plans to someday be part of the water experience.

Gosh, the Czech Republic was almost an abstract name of a country. One that I have never been to, but one that I do want to visit very soon. It is so beautiful and just on our doorstep. Granted, we only saw a program on the spa region but it did the trick.

There are a series of spas in that area and they have hosted Goethe, Beethoven, Mozart and many more royals and celebrities throughout the ages. The fountains might be sprouting the eternal hot spring water but the buildings and gardens firmly sprout forth a sense of history, culture and maybe a few love intrigues through time.

Living in the heart of Europe ( yes, Burgenland has yet another plus for it ) gives us the opportunity to experience history firsthand instead of from the pages of a history book. Carlsbad, is about six hours drive from us and as only happens in Europe, even the drive there might be littered with historical spots of interest and beauty. A six hour drive could easily stretch into a six week one...

Oh, should a Viennese read this, I might be in a tad of trouble, because they are even more central in the heart of Europe. Vienna itself is of course the forerunner of anything to do with history, beauty and is a must see when one is in Europe. For those not fond of history, the Sacher Torte alone will pied pipe them to Vienna.

The cherry on the cake was when they mentioned the worlds finest Glassware company Moser Glass was only a whisker away. No, not glasses you buy at a chain store, but glassware that is used by royalty especially for weddings and state functions.

The glasses produced are of the highest quality and fit for a king, or someone with enough wherewithal to experience a royal pleasure while savouring their drink of choice from the golden rim of a Moser Glass.


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

A Colourful Woodpecker On A Dreary Winter's Morning.

Birding does look like fun even when you're young.

Halfway into my walk yesterday I happened past a friends house and she waved me in for a pit stop. Oh, I thought, why not. We had a bit of a chinwag and then we saw the woodpecker pecking away. The only way I could take this shot was through her bathroom window.
Aren't his colours divine? All his incessant knocking is forgiven...
The woodpecker had flown off but there were plenty of interesting features in my friend's garden. Even in winter. Honestly, I don't know what grows on these twigs, but they are jolly nice to behold on a dreary winter's day. A vibrant red. A shrub planted especially for those occasions where all other colour is hibernating.
Looking at this colour combination is extremely soothing for me.
Still part of the garden. Living among the vineyards is special. A pile of wood here and a row of vines there...what more could one want?
A cheeky little thing indeed. Not scared at all. Hop hop and suddenly it was gone...but not before having a mouthful of seeds. This bird feeding station must be well liked among the bird community. On the edge is a big tree where the next lot were already lining up and awaiting their turn. Lovely.
Nature is rather amazing. Growing each and every blade the crinkle cut way. This garden has many points of interest.
I know this picture has elements of grey and dreary but isn't it nice to see the yellow buds opening? A nice feature among the rocks. Next time the sun is out, I'll try and get a brighter version...


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Getting A Birthday Invite In The Post, Or In Person Is The Best.

And not just when you are young.

Let's face it, in this era of Internet and fastness hardly anyone still sends proper invites in the post. Emails and brief notices on your Smartphones are more the norm. Brevity is sort of a given with the new language of abbreviations, numbers and symbols.

Well, I got home from a job yesterday and Bob couldn't wait to tell me that we had received a birthday invite in the postbox. You'd think that both of us had been transported back to the days of childhood birthday parties. Maybe we were because to be honest I did briefly recall those delightful goody bags we all used to get.

Treats for all and not just the birthday gal / boy. As if eating cake and sweets to our hearts content wasn't enough, we'd all take home some extra ration of did our parents get us to sleep when we were on such a sugar high?

Well, of course we won't be taking home any goody bags but it would be wise for us to put on stretch pants. Everyone here is so generous and sharing with others is how it's done.It's just fabulous how they have included us with open arms.

Another friend has also invited us to her birthday bash. She did it in person and again it feels nice. Even the non-round milestones are celebrated and as this one is a whisker away from us, Bob and I needn't do Rock, paper, scissors for designated driving.

This last year we have been privileged to attend some 50th birthday affairs in our circle of friends and acquaintances. It feels jolly nice and in a way it might give you a clue to our age more or less!

As for our ages: At one of the recent English lessons, we went through the various ages.

" I am five."
" I am four."
" I am thirty " ...was heard from Bob, trying to stir the pot.
" No. Are you really that old already? Yuk, thirty."
well, if only you could have seen Bob's grin. It spread from ear to ear because it has been a long time since he was thought to be under 30.

Of course, the cherry on the cake was when one of the little boys said:

Biggi, why are you married to such an old man? " ...oh my, you should have seen my grin!


Monday, 19 January 2015

Well Done, Lindsey Vonn!

Sharing 1st place for number of World Cup wins since yesterday.

The Alpine World Cup skiing season is only on for a few months each year. With our new reality of global warming, the season might even become shorter. To prove a point, this season, a few races have had to be cancelled or delayed for lack of snow. Yes, lack of snow!

Lindsey Vonn as of yesterday has won 62 World Cup races. A genius on skis. Wow. Bob and I have only been ardent alpine skiing fans since we moved to Austria. Let's face it, in South Africa hardly anyone even knows what it is to ski on snow. Fair enough, in Austria hardly anyone knows about the game of rugby.

Isn't it the same as American Football was one comment from a colleague in Bob's volunteer fire brigade


Should a famous rugby player read this, I can only say that should you want a divine holiday without being recognized...come here. Vice versa is true too, I suppose?

Strange how geography determines sports conversations. Bob's father and brother routinely ask him whether he had seen the brilliant tackling / kicking / scrumming etc of a recent rugby game. Sorry to say, Bob's out of the loop and actually is quite fond of the skiing league. As rugby has Percy Montgomery, football has Schweinsteiger, so Alpine skiing has Anna Fenninger. Sorry, but that is the only gal Bob is fond of watching as she bullets down a slope.

It turns out that in our village Bob is not the only one...all the men are ardent Anna Fenninger supporters. She is Austrian and rather pretty, which might be the determining factor for these guys...

But, back to Lindsey Vonn. One of her disciplines is the Down Hill race. For those not aware of skiing, it is a race down an often icy and extremely steep hill, with skis that are waxed to perfection at speeds of over 100 kph. Definitely not for the faint of heart. A couple of years ago, Lindsey had a terrible fall while in a Down Hill race and injured her knee so badly that she was out of skiing for a few seasons.

A comeback sounds so cliche. Imagine having to ski down a slope at such a high speed and remembering the terrible fall you had there before? It takes a courage, strength and determination to overcome this and Lindsey Vonn has not only overcome this fear, but she is skiing so well
( with all the risks it includes ) that she is winning races again.

A true champion like this is very rare. It is a treat to watch her skiing and I am certain that she will easily set a new record for the number of World cup wins, that maybe only her fellow American, Mikaela Shiffrin might be able to get close to.

Congratulations Lindsey!


Update: After writing this blog story, there was another alpine ski race a few hours later. Can you believe it, Lindsey Vonn won it too. She has now 63 wins and is the all time world cup wins record holder. Congratulations to Lindsey Vonn.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Sunrise, Felled Trees And A Cheeky Lumberjack.

A walk on the felled side.

A sunrise over Deutsch Schützen seems bundled with a feeling of living next to the ocean and endless possibilities to be had. Either the church spire is a beacon in the midst of a sea of fog or the sun brings out a layer of deep blue on the horizon.

By the way, the mound on the right is the new water tower paradoxically built like a bunker on the highest point overlooking the village.

By now you should know that I like both sunrises and sunsets. Each individual one gives such a fabulous background to trees, vines or churches.
A gateway to endless dreaming and the joy of being lost in your thoughts...woolgathering!
A freshly felled tree with grooves galore. The scent wafting in the air had me hovering for a few minutes. Comforting.
The inner wood is still so pure in colour.
Clearly someone had a bit of fun! The totem stump on the side of the did give me a good chuckle when I saw it!


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Bildein, Apart From The Picture On Festival, Has This Mammoth Tree.

A tree that has seen it all and will see some more for sure.

A tree trunk so strong, large and yet kind of elegant. At the moment it could be any tree, but I'll show you the proportions in a minute. This mammoth ( there is no other way to describe it ) tree even dwarfs Bildein's church. We have a weekly hour with a kindergarten crew of two in the rectory next to the church.
It didn't matter what angle I used, there was just no way to get both the tree and the church into the same picture. For some reason it was blowing gales and even though it was sunny it felt as if I was being lashed with icy tentacles. There was one protected spot where to take my photos.
This mammoth tree is really that big. During summer and autumn, one hardly sees the church spire through the leaves. When this tree drops its foliage during shedding season, the kids have a ball. The whole square in front of it ( the same square where the annual Picture On festival is held ) is then covered in a blanket of leaves. They dive on them, they do a spot of gathering and also hunt for big individual leaves.
A symbol of strength and beauty. This tree must have born witness to several generations of life. The church was and is the central meeting point of any village. Weddings, christenings, funerals, intrigues and just normal services through a century or two at least...and hopefully for a few more to come.


Friday, 16 January 2015

We Need A Spring In Our Step Again...

A rerun of Spring in Burgenland.

There is nothing wrong with a bit of positive thinking. Wondering what to write this morning and looking out at a slightly less than blue sky, I thought why not put a happy wallpaper as our mental background.
Our unique Burgenland colour flair is merely a few weeks away. To be fair, the blue skies are everpresent throughout the year but that vivid contrast of green blue and white is special.
The change over from bare to covered in white seems to happen overnight. You'll have to imagine the wonderful aromas of Spring.
At the moment the vines are mere twigs bending in the wind. Somehow it is hard to imagine that over the next few months, these bare twigs will produce the raw materials for a great wine.
Oh, I can't wait to see the yellow fields again. They are abundant in our area and this one is actually in Hungary. Imagine if a lavender field were to be planted adjacent to it? A colour extravaganza.
Of course Spring is also a good time to lavish the time away on the Burgenland Wine Utopia...Australia have their Gold Coast, we have our Wine Idyll! Lapping up the sound of nature ( birds, tractors and the odd words floating over from the vintners working their vines ) is a perfect antidote to city life. Book your stay in this delightful original Vintner's cottage.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Ventilate, Ventilate And Ventilate...

One of the joys of living in the Northern Hemisphere!

Whatever happened to the rallying mantra issued by Beauty Queens throughout the ages Moisturize, moisturize and moisturize some more ? A much more pleasant way to control the humidity for our skin.

Winter is magical, pure and exciting except for that little know detail of having to ventilate your home. Well, our home is not some new age automated ventilated abode but one where the art of manual ventilating is still practiced. Twice a day is the norm and often against all odds I adhere to it.

Most houses are nice and cozy inside but open a window or step outside and you instantly get to understand how cold winter actually feels. Freezing and that is with just one window open a tad bit. A dropped parental hint ( or more of a stricture ) was mentioned when we first moved in:

" It is imperative that you open all and every window for at least 10 minutes twice a day. If you don't, your house will have humidity problems and get mould."

Let me tell you, that the odds I had to overcome where the constant shouts of:

" Are you crazy? Shut the window. It's bloody freezing outside."
" Shut the windows, you letting all the mosquitoes in! "
in a way it is understandable for both of us to worry about the cold. Southerners are a bit more thin skinned and feel the cold ever so quickly.

The first two years we have been diligent with the ventilating ( by the way, it should be done all year round ) with some lapses when the odds carried favour. Some winter days it was too cold and some summer days there were too many mosquitoes...

Our area has been inundated with rain this last year making the ground soaked. Moisture is everywhere and alas, a smidgen of mould has made itself felt. When Bob saw and smelt it, he changed his mantra of :

" Shut the windows please, to ... ventilate, ventilate but for goodness sake hurry up already."

Life in our house is never boring and always entertaining...


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Biggest Container Ship In The World Docks In Hamburg.

A giant ship from China makes me quake in my shoes.

Are we so addicted to having, buying and wasting that we need to get even bigger ships to deliver more goods to us? After all, what more could we possibly need that we haven't got already?

When did the love affair with Made in China start for all of us? Slowly but surely it crept up on us. I remember back in the 90's jokingly saying that if you turn over a souvenir, chances are it has the Made in China sticker underneath. Even if the souvenir was from America, Egypt or Paris.

Nobody label checked back then except for a few diligent ones. All of a sudden, stores had a cheaper offering of just about anything. Slowly but surely quality was replaced by quantity. Clothes were bought at the drop of a hat, because they were so cheap and in fact only lasted a few washes before looking out of shape.

We all go for a bargain. It is a thrill when you go shopping and come back with cash still in your hands. But did ( and do ) we ever consider that when we buy from another country, one that has cheaper overheads than our own country, jobs in our own country would disappear? Surely there were factories producing clothes and things in our own backyard? You know, places of employment for the average person.

Every economy needs a cross section of employment. It can't just survive on University graduates. All those jobs that one can do without a degree are vital for any economy. Well, so many jobs have left all of our shores to move to China, that in a way we only have ourselves to blame. Take a walk through your house and label many Made in China can you find?

Interesting article from the Economic Policy Institute.

Trade on the whole is a good thing. But trade needs to be sort of balanced. Maybe a simple one for one might do the trick. Let's try and be more aware of labels.

Take the time and a magnifying glass to check the label of every thing you buy. Alternate Made in China with Made in your own country !

Maybe, to shift the balance to a more eh, balanced setting, we could all make an effort to support our shops, factories, industries and workers every now and again.


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Our Love For Immortals On Paper Or Celluloid.

A whole new world it seems.

Women of a certain age ( or at least this woman ) fell in love with the first immortal of stature I saw on screen. Who could resist the Highlander when he was played by Christopher Lambert. Oh my and in a kilt to boot. This was before the time of DVDs and still on a video cassette. Frankly, I watched it so often that the tape gave out in the end.

Move forward a few decades and a new phenomena was lauded onto the world. These novels were the stories needed to entice teenagers ( and many oldies ) back to reading. Make no mistake about it, The Twilight Saga was one of the best romance series I have read. Yes, romance mingled with the immortal vampires and werewolves.

Just like everyone else, I was enthralled with the Twilight movies but one day I happened to see a new series on TV. After the first episode I was entirely hooked and suddenly the Twilight Saga was not the top favourite anymore.

Vampire Diaries is amazingly addictive despite being inundated with plenty of immortal characters. The vampires do their thing or rather bare their fangs but despite it all, they have this endearing human side to them.

Naturally there is the heroine who lives up to her name of being mostly heroic, always nice and very beautiful.The typical damsel in distress. She would have to be if two vampires constantly vie for her love.

What is it about the idea of immortality coupled with superhuman strength that makes this such fun to watch? Yes, the actors are all dishy with the required six pack and googly eyes but despite this, they portray that chivalrous side which is an unbeatable if not the main trait we all want in our men.

Every now and again new characters are introduced into the series. Some more bloodthirsty and cruel than others yet they still manage to give them an adorable human side. The actors are well chosen because they give such a lovable quality to even the most horrific immortal. Luckily they have even started a spin off series...The Originals. Yeah.

Deep down we are all teenagers at heart. It doesn't matter how old we are, a good romance is unbeatable. If you ever get a chance, the Vampire Diaries is well worth giving a try. By the way, it is not just women who love it. Bob, who at first was slightly scathing about watching this series is now nearly more of a Vampire Diary addict than I...


The Vampire Diaries - Staffel 1-5 (exklusiv bei [Limited Edition] [27 DVDs]
Highlander - Es kann nur einen geben

Monday, 12 January 2015

Winter: There One Day And Gone The Next.

Winter in its various guises.

When I saw this, it made me think of a perfectly layered cake. Or rather a slice of Winter with all layers included.
A resolute Winter weed swaying in the Wintry gusts now and again.
Oh, I know it's just a bit of snow melting away, but I love the contrast it gives to the dominant green blades of grass. Amazing that it is still so vividly green underneath the layer of snow, frost or otherwise.
The dormant farmland seems gentle and insignificant. Yet, this is the most precious thing one can own. This is where our food is grown and harvested. The lifeblood of any economy and country.
The Eisenberg forest is in the background and the Eisenberg breadbasket in the foreground. The vines that keep us merry are in between.
The loner overlooking his realm. He more than likely knows each and ever worm turning in the fields and pastures below him. Field mice might also not escape his eagle eyes and be part of his dinner...


Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Culinary Thrill Of Devouring A Freshly Baked Bread Roll While Sitting In Your Car.

Driving with bread crumbs or living on the edge?

Truthfully I cannot tell you that I don't initiate shopping trips purely for the fresh bread rolls that can be had at the various Supermarkets. Do you think there might be a need for a reference guide?

Biggi's guide to the best fresh baked goods to be devoured on route. Judged by the ripping test & amount of breadcrumbs had.
Sometimes Bob saves me the trouble to nudge him. Friday he had a bee in his bonnet to make pumpkin soup. Pumpkin soup means a trip through to Hungary for us.

Why Hungary you might ask? Well, they sell divine tasting pumpkins and a lot more reasonably priced too. Before you start to question our sanity, you must know that it's the same distance to drive to a big city in Hungary than to the nearest town in Burgenland. When in Europe, do the European thing...

On top of everything else, we were looking for a DVD. Well, first shopping outlet...nada. Next outlet was Tesco's. While Bob was doing his thing, I managed to hone in on their bakery isle. Good golly gosh, they don't disappoint. At least 8 baskets of freshly baked rolls, muffins and similar delectable items to tempt even the most diligent dieter.

Either they sprayed a scent in the air, or maybe it is just the baker opening the oven but the aroma wafting about was too much for me to resist. There is always one major drawback of course. Everything is labeled in Hungarian and I have to choose by looks alone. Whether it is sweet or savoury only gets discovered once we are in the car.

Bob has the discipline to wait until we are out of the car park ( he is driving the chariot after all ) which I don't have. Opening that paper bag with our spoils is the best feeling in the world. The golden freshly baked aroma coupled with that ripping sound of crust being torn apart is almost ethereal.

Of course, Bob being Bob, he knows exactly what and how much of the doughy stuff was purchased and he demands his equal share of the bounty. Once, years ago I tried to hoodwink him...Goodness, have you ever withheld freshly baked bread from your man? Never again!

I sincerely hope there are no Big Brother affairs trained on our car, because seeing us rip and devour a freshly baked bread roll or croissant or loaf of bread ( oh yes, I dare you to resist a fresh out the oven loaf of bread! ) might have been the video that launched a thousand likes.

When we had the first lot of bread crumbs all over us and the car seat, Bob let out a loud : " Oh no! " and started to turns out we forgot to buy pumpkin and the shopping trip to Hungary turned into a mere culinary outing after all. Ah, isn't life grande?


Saturday, 10 January 2015

Tears Or Not, Let's All Learn To Peel Onions.

Plenty of surprises in store.

When was the last time you listened closely in a conversation? Most of us are too busy trying to formulate our thoughts, ideas and overriding principles that we forget to listen. Listening is a key ingredient to any conversation after all.

As people we are all covered up in layers upon layers of experiences. Hopefully, the older we get, the more layers we earn. On the outside we might look wrinkled and iffy like most older onions do, but our true essence starts to shine through with each peeled layer.

There is nothing better than to find out about the life experience of others. It is like a mystery where all you need to do is turn the page to find out more. Turning the page of people is as easy as just listening along with the occasional prompt. Somehow that combination is the key to unveiling layers.

The first impressions are what we take in and even deem important but how often do we assign someone to the " Quiet / Boring / Bossy / Beautiful / Ugly / Can't Be Bothered " pile without making the effort to find out their real personality.

I don't know who started the trend of turning a deaf ear to quiet people ? How wrong could we be. The quiet ones are often the most interesting ones to talk to. They have experienced life and don't feel the need to boast about it.

Living life, it is impossible not to garner experiences. Isn't it experience that gives our character life, hue and dimension? How often have I passed up the opportunity to really get to know someone by not bothering to make a conversation?

You know, sometimes a real conversation is rather simple. All you need to do is ask " How are you? " and actually take the time to listen to the answer.

As for tears, you might be brought to them. Some layers that are peeled could just as well reveal some hilarious or nefarious past causing you to laugh or cry. Honestly, I would rather find out the inner core and not be blinded by a perfectly staged outer layer...


Friday, 9 January 2015

Boys And Their Toys.

My gosh, they do start young...

Somehow you get used to the bigger boys ( i.e grown ups ) boasting about their lot in life. The better car, house, holiday, wife and smarter children. Oh, the list is endless. But who knew, that it already starts at the age when they attend kindergarten?

It must have been the remnants of Christmas spirit because I can't explain it any other way. My two English students ( age 4 & 5 ) were angelic from the first minute to the last. It doesn't say much for my managing ability to admit that this is not normal. Whereas I drove my parents crazy with the eternal phrase used in any backseat of a parental car:

" Are we there yet? "
often the boys drive me crazy with :
" When is the lesson over? " which is far from nice to hear 5 minutes in and makes me quake in my boots! At times, 60 minutes seems like 600 minutes.

Anyway, as it was the first lesson after Christmas I asked them what the " Kristkindel " brought. Oh yes, they are still at that age. Lovely. Their eyes were sparkling and it almost seemed like they didn't have enough time to devote to all those gifts they had received.

" I got a helicopter."
" And I got a big police station. Bigger than any helicopter! "

It was amazing for me to see the two boys thinking of ways to outdo each other in regards to their Christmas presents. At one point, if I hadn't intervened a small display of fisticuffs might have ensued. Really boys?

As young as they are, they know instinctively how to wound the other one with deeds and words. The most important invite they could get and give at that age was used as the proverbial dangling and just out of reach carrot:

The invite to each other's Birthday Parties. Of course when I asked them when their party was, they were a bit clueless, apart from who to invite, who not to invite and of course the divine cake their mums would bake for them.

Seeing a few glimpses of life through their eyes is rather educational, fun, never boring and a privilege. Oh, and I almost forgot to say, that I am beginning to realize how much power a 5 year old can wield in his realm.


Thursday, 8 January 2015

So, You Really Want To Be A Famous Actor?

Most of us dream of being a success in Hollywood.

They are idolized, over paid and usually extremely beautiful or handsome. What is not to like about actors? As a viewing public we fall in love with these actors or rather the character they portray.

Bond fever is gripping Austria at the moment. Hardly surprising when you consider that part of the new Bond epic is being filmed in a beautiful part of Austria. Naturally they picked a snowy & mountainous region, as most of the world thinks of Austria as purely a place of skiing and where Heidi visits her Grandpa.

The next next Bond epic should do a detour in our well suited and stunning part of Burgenland...007 could change from savouring a non stirred Martini to a well swirled Blaufränkisch!

By the way, if you think that swirling your wine professionally in a wine glass is easy, think again. I have often tried and had to deal with either wine hurtling with alarming speed over the rim, looking clumsy or both...

We idolize actors and or rather the roles they play. How do we even know that Daniel Craig ( the current 007 ) isn't afraid of mice, storms and fast moving vehicles? Granted he looks like 007, but looks aren't everything.

Taking the actors side, I have to say that all the money they get paid surely doesn't compensate for being hounded by paparazzi, fans and single women. Just imagine, taking a step out your front door to fetch the post, and snap crackle pop, someone has taken your photo of you sporting Pyjamas & bed hair. Not nice indeed.

Being on constant alert and constantly in mint looking condition must be dreadfully difficult to maintain. Even now, when most newspapers have a two page spread on a Daniel Craig sighting or where he could be, I can't help but feel sorry for him.

Fame, as illusive as it can be, has a price attached to it. Privacy might as well be an oxymoron to the famous lot, because, gosh darn it, they don't have any. At least most have enough dosh to feather a comfortable hidey-hole, away from the maddening crowds.

Having said all that, should Mr. Craig do a sojourn in our vineyards, there might well be that a married lady taking a photo of him...


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Does Anyone Know What Day Of The Week It Is?

The deceptiveness of Christmas and New Year.

We count down the days like clockwork and know to the second of when it all is about to begin. A last mad dash through the shops to get those " oh, I mustn't forget so and so " gifts, which are, let's face it, the leftovers of the conscientious shopper. Those, who finish their Christmas shopping in October. Yes, they do exist...

Finally, when Christmas Eve is here and we've put on the stretch pants that we all need over the coming weeks, we start to relax. Relax and eat our way through the mountain of sweets and treats that seem obligatory for this time of year. Not many who can resist that particular lure of homemade Christmas cookies and roast chicken / ham / beef coupled with the knowledge that your house is filled with chocolates, pralines and Lebkuchen!

Usually, by the end of Boxing day we start to lose all sense of time and discipline. A few days in a row with nothing to do except eat, drink and watch movies can do that to you. By the way, it is the best feeling in the world. Staying up late ( or not ) and knowing that the following morning you can sleep in ( or not ) at your leisure.

The end of Christmas isn't bad either because it heralds the next holiday, New Years. The only stressful or worrying thought on the horizon is that your clothes are starting to pinch. Hooray for stretch pants.

Of course Bob is adamant that our washing machine is on the fritz because it shrunk all his clothes.

Even as I write this, I am still not quite sure what weekday it is. Somehow, most days seem like Monday and it is rather nice to realize that in fact it isn't and the weekend is a mere hopscotch away.

Losing all sense of time is a sign of a successful holiday. Thankfully we stayed at home and thus had each and every day of these last few weeks at our disposal. Thank goodness we didn't get bitten by the we need to get away to some other place than home bug. Isn't it ironic that when you pay to go away, far from forgetting what day it is you end up counting down the days until you have to go back home...

Did we do anything industrious? No, we watched movies, we read books, we visited family, we ate too much and most importantly we had a fabulous time being at home together.


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Are There Any Professions Not Being Replaced By Computers?

Technological it really so good for all of us?

Everyone you know whips out their Smartphone at the drop of a hat. Even those extremely tight jeans ( those that can resemble a sausage casing ) have a pocket the exact size to house the omnipresent Smartphone? In a way that is rather sad.

Most of us are very scathing in attitude towards Alcoholics, Smokers and Gamblers, but let's face it, the ultimate addiction is the Smartphone. Oh yes, it is! Once you have it, it dictates your lifestyle, posture and reality.

Apps, the newfangled word that has a million applications is used in the same new way as cola, hamburger and milkshake were back in the 50's. Back then, the use of those terms made us larger but now, the use of Apps will make us poorer.

Most Apps you use, replace a physical person's job. Online might have a lot of benefits, but it does replace physical jobs. Jobs that you might have had to earn the money to pay for all those Smartphone deals you order.

In this last decade alone it seems that more billionaires have been created than ever before. Most of them have something to do with the Internet. Rather ironic, isn't it when so many middle class jobs are being lost forever, because they are replaced by a machine run by a computer. Interesting article featured in the PC Magazine.

This new 3-D printing revolution has techies foaming at the mouth with excitement. I for one am horrified by it, because if a printer makes things, more and more jobs and professions are becoming extinct. In one way it almost seems like we are returning to the middle ages. A time when there were a few Kings and rich people and the rest of the population tithed their meager income to them while struggling to make ends meet.

There will come a time, when governments will have no choice but to pay a salary to us even though we aren't working. With so many of us, and so few available jobs, that might just be the new reality.

The one profession that will never be replaced is that of a Hairstylist / Hairdresser. No one would be comfortable with Edward Scissorhands being let loose on your hair. Having worked in the industry, I find it rather fitting to point out the following.

Hairdressers on the whole were thought of as not having been clever enough to learn any other profession. There is an ever present academic divide between hairstylists and doctors, lawyers and academics. Maybe that is human nature. But now, the tables are turned as it is a vocation that will endure the computer age...
It doesn't matter how rich or powerful you are, the moment you sit in your hairstylist's chair, the balance of power has shifted!


Monday, 5 January 2015

Burgenland's History Dates Back To The 4th Century...B.C !

Ooh, endless possibilities for the budding detectorists.

I already know how beautiful Burgenland is. To be fair, so far I've only really been privy to our southern part of it. Südburgenland as it is known. That's the thing about this stunning part of Austria, it has everything from luscious pastures via friendly people to its divine & award winning wines. Travelling to different parts somehow seems unnecessary.

As for my enthusing about our fabulous wines, I do so out of my love for it and voluntarily...although, if a secret wine Santa were to leave a few bottles of wine on our doorstep, I would be polite and drink it!

Some of our local vintners have hinted that the vineyards have been there even during Roman times. That alone is fascinating beyond words and maybe a cause to have a second glass of the local Blaufränkisch red wines.

To be honest, I merely glimpsed through an online reference about Burgenland and its history and still need to study it in more detail. But I wasn't expecting it to have a prehistoric record...Indo-European people, Celts and the Roman Empire to name but a few entries.

Different cultures, fiefdoms and royalties must have left their footprint on Burgenland. Most of it hidden underneath the scenic and rolling landscape. Could one liken Burgenland to an onion that reveals layer upon layer of historical artifacts? Majestic and definitely magnetic to us budding detectorists.

People being people, there have of course been wars and carnage in our area. Unfortunatley the ancient tradition of war and fighting wasn't left behind in history as the plow and horses / bow and arrow were.

We all know that the dark side of humanity has remained and grown in might ( personally I hope that it comes to an end soon and when they ban the manufacturing of weapons everywhere, we might get lucky and have a peaceful existence worldwide ).

Bob has also been gripped by the detectorist fever and almost burst my bubble when he told me that there are already a few thousand detectorists here in Burgenland...Shoo, so far I haven't detected anyone with a long stick except for German tourists and a few locals demonstrating the art of Nordic Walking...


Sunday, 4 January 2015

Bob Brought Home The Basket.

It just goes to show that Mathematics Is Vital...

At first I thought it was his nefarious past throwing off a few good points, you know the time where he and his group of friends went out to their local watering hole throughout their 20's and 30's. Really, at 2 am, how was I to know that Bob had used his ingenious maths skills?

Being a member of the Eisenberg Volunteer Fire Brigade means attending a lot of rival Fire Brigde's functions. The first one was last night and Bob went all spiffy in his dress uniform. It's been a year since he joined and what a great year it has been. A year of new friendships. Simply Fabulous.

As I said, Bob came back home at 2 am and I woke up from my TV slumber to a lot of rustling. There Bob was, proud as a peacock, carrying this huge basket of goodies. Chocolates, biscuits, sparkling wine, sweets and treats. In fact, it made me realize how far we had come.

A year or so ago, that basket would have been needed. Yes, there was a time where we couldn't even afford a bar of chocolate. Butter was a luxury and ham not thought of. Look, that is par for the course when you immigrate. Nothing to be ashamed of. But what this basket made me realize, is that we have definitely turned the corner, because both of us were already wondering who to give these treats to.

If only we would realize how abundant our life is, when we have enough to eat. Pure luxury and yet it seems never enough somehow, does it?

How did Bob garner this basket? Well, he told me that there was a raffle. There was a big glass jar filled to the brim with used beer bottle tops on display. For a euro you could get a chance to guess the correct number of bottle tops in this jar. Look, it was only natural for me to assume that Bob somehow had the innate ability to guess the quantity.

Bob told me how he put his money on the #712. His table neighbour, jokingly decided on #711 and surprise surprise, the winning number was #710. Bob's basket was third prize. ( 1st prize must have been a whole wagon load of goodies...)

Wow, I thought that that was an extreme lucky guess until the maths parlour trick was revealed...Bob told me that he counted the rows and stacks of bottle tops inside the jar and did a simple multiplication. Ah, great stuff...ah, my man!


Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Other Heavy Metal Fan: A Detectorist.

Wow, what a cool hobby.

I am so smitten with the idea of starting a hobby as a detectorist. This morning there was a report on the news about a detectorist in England finding coins from the 11th Century. Wow, can you imagine?

Deep down, we are all in love with the idea of hunting for treasure. Maybe it has to do with reading fables as children or maybe it is instinctual after all. Most of us partake in some sort of treasure hunting, don't you think?

  • Lotto
  • Casinos
  • Corporate takeovers
  • advantageous marriages
  • and now this latest trend of detectoring.
Count me in.

Europe with its rich history would and must be the holy grail for this new trend of metal detecting. By the way, a detectorist is a person walking around with a metal detector searching for buried treasure. In the past it used to be a mad uncle doing the metal detecting in the back yard, but it might just be going mainstream.

Imagine my surprise when I realised that there is already a TV series about this. The Detectorists ( Detectorists [DVD] [UK Import] ). It seems I stumbled upon a new and hot trend...

Apart from the lure of lustre, it must be an indescribable feeling to find coins or metal
( mostly gold ) objects that where used a few hundred years ago. Straight away the abstract side of history changes into something we can feel and touch and discover anew.

Gosh, there is no limit to this hobby. Bob, who of course would be my co-detectorist even though he doesn't know it yet, could don a Fedora and whip and relive his childhood dream of being Indiana Jones and I could be his trusty blonde German side kick. A side kick with a metal detector and sturdy boots.

You know, the more I think of this, the more I like it. Fresh air, loads of walking about and discovering our area and unearthing its rich, varied and oh so interesting history.


Friday, 2 January 2015

Penmanship: An Archaic Phenonomen?

Pen and paper are becoming an abstract idea!

Be honest, when was the last time you wrote anything by hand. By anything I mean more than one sentence? You can scoff all you like, but unless you are a student, writing by hand is not needed anymore in our modern times.

It is very sad but true. Writing letters to friends and family is done by email...that is if you are lucky because the fashionable form of communitction tends to have a brevity of content. How else can you convey your sentiments in 144 characters?

We have also grabbed this lazy and easy form of lassoing in our friends with one Facebook entry
( typewritten of course ) with both hands. I can still remember going through my address book and writing Christmas cards for the chosen lot. Depending on how conscientious you were, you might have written up to 50 cards. Hand written, I might add. Of course that was eons ago!

One ray of hope is that our generation still writes proper sentences on our social platforms. Rarely do you see an abbreviation on someone's missive if they are over the age of 35. Words to us are important to express ourselves. With any luck it will rub off through osmosis to all and sundry in our social stream.

Jump to the next generation, and their entries on any social platform is prefixed by a hash tag and a few phrases. The even younger lot tend to skip words altogether and only use photos to convey what's happening in their life.

For all I know, this sudden love of not using words might be the real cause of our youth not reading books ( novels etc ). They simply don't understand them. How could they, if they only use abstract words and emoticons in their communications. Of course the folk at Amazon are way ahead of this trend, because they make sure that if you read anything on a kindle-device, you have an automatic dictionary on screen.

Writing by hand has many facets. The right instrument makes our penmanship that much more legible and more fun to write. When I use a fountain pen, miraculously my penmanship neatens up and is far more legible. Of course, not having much opportunity to write by hand, it takes great concentration to form neat letters.

Let's hope that the art of penmanship will make a comeback and along with it the art of using individual words to create sentences that describe your feelings without needing to appendix an emoticon...

Biggi F├╝ller Agatha Christie FP 4810 Ltd. Edit 1993 Meisterstuck Le Grand Platinum Fountain Pen with Medium Nib (2851)

Thursday, 1 January 2015

It's That Day Today: The Day For Clean Slates!

So many plans, yet again...

Today is the day for

  • fresh dreams
  • dreams unfulfilled
  • and dreams interrupted.
Why does it take the 1st of January of any year to make us sit up and take notice of our life?

Diets have Mondays and our life's plans seem to be set for New Year's days. Silly, aren't we? Those resolute ' resolutioners' make the same resolution each and every year. Don't you think it should have worked by now?

Why are we so het up on the superficial side of our lives? Legions of dieters all over the world are waking up full and bloated today because they cleaned out their fridges and larders yesterday. New runners are putting their toes out for the start of their new fitness program and the others will do a month of no alcohol.

Dear Supermarkets & Bottle stores, please don't fret about your profits, because as we all know a month of denial doesn't last that long. Somewhere in the region of 24 hours to maybe a week...

Instead of participating in the eternal round robin of new year's resolutions, why don't we just live our lives as best as we can, each and every day? Let's just be normal human beings with flaws and all our individual quirks. Let's face it, those quirks make us who we are and definitely more interesting.

If we go about our days treating others as we would like to be treated, then I think we can't go wrong. Kindness is infectious and so is a smile. Making our world a nicer place might just be as simple as that old biblical phrase: to others what you would have them do to you.