Month: March 2014

Industrial Oerlikon

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Didn’t have much time to write this week due to various factors. After temperatures up to 20 degrees last Friday, on the weekend it snowed! But today it’s fining up again so I went on a long walk with P round the industrial part of town. Fascinating. Can’t wait to explore more.

Death by IKEA

IKEA Dietlikon

Have been spending a lot of time worshipping at the shrine of middle-class “lifestyle solutions” that is IKEA. Uuuuuuggghhhhhh

The worst thing is, when you look around the store and feel chuffed that you already have that table! (therefore do not have to buy it now) and those stools! Oh and there’s our chest of drawers… I see they do them  in red now.

The worst thing is when you look around your house and 50-80% of your furniture is IKEA. Or looks like it is.

The worst thing is when you’re trotting back there merrily planning to buy another PAX wardrobe ‘because the last one really fit most of our stuff’ but you had to leave it behind because it was too big to move and it would have fallen apart anyway. Besides, now you need a slightly different PAX to suit/fit your new bedroom.

The worst thing is visiting your new neighbours and seeing that their homes are all decked out in IKEA too.

The worst thing is realising that even the kitchen in the new apartment is probably an IKEA one.

The worst thing is wondering who, how or what is the evil genius that’s gained such a stranglehold on our interior spaces. What does it mean that we’re increasingly living (and working and eating) in places that look roughly THE SAME because it’s just so cheap(ish) and seems to cater to all those storage and organisation needs you didn’t even know you had? And those meatballs, yum!

The worst thing is it’s not even worth buying “real” furniture for stacks more money because modern life = moving around and it’s so much trickier to take it with you and who knows if it will even fit your new home / lifestyle?

The worst thing is IKEA. I’m going back again this weekend.

Things I don’t miss about London

London. Photo: Claire Doble

I said I’d write this at some point after I posted my Things I’ll Miss About London entry but it seemed a little negative. However, since HI’s back in the UK capital for a conference today, and it’s also two weeks (! only 2 weeks?!) since we packed up our house in Tottenham,  it got me thinking about:

What I don’t miss about London…

  • Swimming Pools All the pools in London are sh*t. Sorry to be harsh but it is true. They are small – usually 25 or 33m ( I heard this is so three lengths is 100m?). There are only two (2!) 50m pools in London and one is outdoors, although heated. As a keen swimmer from a country that is lazy with pools as well as the ocean, I really missed being able to swim easily and pleasantly in London. Zurich has 24 pools for roughly 400,00 people and this week I visited and swam at the Oerlikon Hallenbad. It was great. Like an Aussie pool. Hallelujah!. Of course there may be decent pools in London I never checked out because:
  • Commuting How to convey the terror / boredom / thrill? / anxiety / enforced psychopathic detachment of commuting to work with literally hundreds of thousands of other human beings using a straining-at-the-seams transport system in a megalopolis like London? Unless you’ve done it, you cannot comprehend. If you have, you know what I mean. It’s no wonder it’s often said that one of the top 10 things things that make you happier is a shorter commute to work. In the same vein:
  • John Lewis I know, I know. I love it too… or I thought I did. But somehow that whole Oxford Street ugliness thing, the stress, the busy-ness, the horror, the horror. And the competitive shopping vibe – the fact that shopping is kinda regarded as an enjoyable leisure activity for the family? No.
  • Chicken bones on the street. Along with every other bit of crud, litter, fly-tipped matresses, dog mess etcetera. Disgusting. Nobody cares. London is too big for anyone to have civic pride. HI is often saying London became a world power because of dirt (I think it’s from Peter Ackroyd’s London biography – something about the fact Londoners were too busy working/trading to wash and it’s led to their success and resilience). And I get it – it’s a strength too and the advantage of the huge/uncaring thing is that it means people aren’t all up in your sh*t. But it does wear you down. One time I saw a guy empty his catheter into the gutter at the corner of my street. For reals.
  • English Culture People talk about the stiff upper lip, but en masse, I find English culture can be mawkishly sentimental and soft! They love animals, there’s polite passive aggression, crazy class inequalities, Ant & Dec, plinky-plonky music and “every little helps”.  Aw bless, I love them really. And now I have a whole new culture to cringe at.
  • Tottenham. I want to say I miss it, I’d love to say I loved it, but I don’t and I can’t. I tried really hard to convince everyone – mostly myself – that I did. But it sucks. And a lot of this is due to Haringey Council… ugh. On bad days, Tottenham is a stark example of a combination of all the things I’ve outlined above. On good days, you don’t notice so much. I won’t say I didn’t enjoy the challenge and I know some truly wonderful people who live there but I do not miss the area and I don’t know if I ever will. I’m sorry.

He’s Danish… so he speaks English

I am only just beginning to get my head around the babble of language here.


It must be one of the “most foreign” places we could have moved to in that there are four official languages (German, French, Italian and the oral Romansh) as well as the dialect of Schweizerdeutsch (Swiss German). And yet, that also sort of makes it the “least foreign” because there’s such a wash of different words being spoken that English is often the default and no one necessarily expects you to speak the language they do (kinda). Documents and labels and stuff are generally in German, French and Italian, and you often get an English option too.

And you get weird experiences such as the electrician who was recommended to fit our lights – “This guy is good and he’s Danish, so he speaks English.” You have to provide all your own light fittings here – when we moved in, the apartment just had a bunch of wires sprouting from each ceiling. Luckily we knew this ahead of time and shopped up a storm in John Lewis before leaving the UK! As for HI, he was mostly keen to ask the Danish sparky if he knew where in Switzerland you could buy Lurpak (you have to go to Germany, apparently). Priorities.

Meanwhile I had my first German lesson today. I missed the first two weeks of the course because: moving. But it doesn’t seem to matter too much – I had a quick read through the early stuff and maybe I did know a few more basic words than I thought. It’s an ECAP course over six months, two mornings per week so I’ve got plenty of time to catch up.The teacher only speaks German to us, which is fair enough, considering the varied backgrounds of the people attending. But also, eek!

The other students are all women who mostly have children I think (it’s a course designed for mums with young children and ECAP also offers childcare). There’s a huge range of different nationalities — English, Aussie (me!), Singaporean, Sri Lankan, Spanish, French, Italian, African, Middle Eastern, Eastern European…

I hope to make some new friends while I learn. 🙂 Sehr Gut!

The Wood Between Worlds

View from my window at EMA house - where Zurich's two rivers join

Do you remember the Wood Between Worlds that appeared in the somewhat odd prequel to The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe? It was a place of limbo, not good, not bad but somehow terrifying in its lassitude-inducing neutrality. A place to pass through that one could end up being stuck in if not careful. I’ve always tried to move forward but there’s been a lot of uncertainty in the past year or so since this Swiss move was mooted. 

Being caught between two worlds and waiting for decisions to be made, most of which have been out of my hands, is enervating – something well captured in TWBW (The book is called The Magician’s Nephew by the way). But now I am in the final stages – staying in a serviced apartment in Kreis 6, perched high above the spot where Zurich’s two rivers, the Limmat and the Sihl, converge. The imagery is apt, of course.

This week I will finally make a loud and definite splashdown into the pond marked “Zurich”, moving into a proper apartment and commencing a real, full-blooded life in this city. I can’t wait.

That said, I hope I haven’t been riding the uncertainty so long that I’ve got used to the enforced laziness and non-commitment of TWBW halfway point.


I wrote that yesterday and today I jumped into a strange new puddle – the Swiss nursery that P will attend three days a week from now. Until I was there, I don’t think I’d quite realised the magnitude of the change we’re imposing on him. I know he’ll be OK but it’s kind of heartbreaking to see him unable to communicate with other kids and being only half understood by the one adult there who speaks English. On the plus side, she dresses like a sort of 80s heavy-metal girlfriend reinterpreted for 2014, which I can only thoroughly approve of.

Oh well… only time will tell.  I’ve just heard our stuff is arriving from the UK tomorrow so I guess this is it.  So, in conclusion to this stage of my life, let me paraphrase Dr Seuss’s Oh The Places You’ll Go (one of P’s favourites):

The Waiting Place is a most useless place... It’s time to escape all that waiting and staying — to find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. 

Boom Boom.