Tuesday 22 March 2011

I'm still here

I was going to have to do a Tuesday Ten on why I love my job but then I realised, it's been less than two months since the last time I did that. Work is not a happy place at the moment. Ten reasons why work is not a happy place at the moment...

1. RUBBISH ski company, cancelling my ski course at three weeks' notice. That's the ski course I have been going to personal training to ensure I am fit enough to complete, since September.

2. RUBBISH ski company, telling me they are behind on all my trip paperwork because they have someone on long term sick. We leave two weeks on Friday. I don't even know what time we get back yet. I understand long term sick is a problem, but unfortunately, it is not MY problem. I do not have time for this problem.

(I think RUBBISH ski company will have to provide an awesome incentive if they want my booking next year).

3. Governor shizzle. So secret, I can't tell anyone at work. I hate the pressure. I'm constantly worried I'm going to blurt it out.

4. The possible upshots of all the governor shizz, and worrying about them.

5. People who are ungrateful for the huge amounts of work I put in on their behalf.

6. People who expect me to be able to work miracles, over things that are NOT EVEN MY JOB.

7. A2 students who expect me to spoon feed them their coursework and look shocked when they turn up for class, without completing their assignment (that's zero for nine, people) and I don't think it's really funny.

8. ...and then have the audacity to ask me if the coursework deadlines are always so tight. DO. YOUR. HOME. STUDY. Then it won't be so tight. Also, don't ever question my methods. I have two degrees and years of experience. I was so good at coursework at uni, that my professors let me write a second dissertation instead of attending a taught unit in my final year. You can't even remember to bring a pen to class half the time. I know who most people's money would be on.

9. Having the additional pressure of trying to prove I am worthy of a meaningless label, in three weeks or less.

10. There is too much to do. I haven't blogged in nearly a month! Rubbish.

Nice knitting weekend away this weekend though, and thank goodness for that. I have almost forgotten how to knit.

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten Pictures from the last Ten Days

1. Batman prepares to ski, Les Diablerets, Switzerland

Unfortunately, Batman did not take to skiing.

2. Skiing with Sib and his girlf

It snowed all night Saturday night and all day Sunday, so we had tonnes of fresh snow to work with by the time we made it to the slopes on Sunday afternoon. Indeed, too much; Sib, who has only had a week on snow, and that at the tender age of 13, found it exceedingly hard going and in the end gave up and walked the rest of the way down. Even I only managed one good run from the top of the bubble before I was cold and wet through (my waterproof jacket proving to be not waterproof) and not in the mood to continue.
Still! It was skiing, therefore I mainly loved it. And so beautiful in amongst the trees!

The snow was also good for Les Diablerets, which has been snow-poor so far this season. Elise's sister, who walked into town Sunday morning for fresh baguettes, said she had never seen so many smiley, happy people.

We had a bit of a time finding it, though. In my efforts to jet-set, we flew to Switzerland from work on Friday night, arriving at our hire car at 11pm for a 2 hour drive. Neither of us brought a map, or had access to SatNav. This was how we ended up driving up a road which appeared closed (neither of us speak French so it may have been closed, or just closed to dog sleds). The road wound up, and up. We passed skidoos. We were nervous. We were grateful for the winter tyres. Then we had to stop because we came to...a piste.
When we eventually figured it out, we discovered Les Diablerets was the other side of the mountain and we had to drive all the way back down to Aigle and begin again. So, it was around 3am by the time we arrived. I said sorry, a lot.

3. Blue Lagoon, Iceland

This was a school trip. We had to get up at 3am to get to school and then on the plane; we went to the Blue Lagoon straight from the airport. It couldn't have been a better first stop, from the obligatory hot naked shower beforehand, to the smooth silica mud we scooped out of the troughs and smoothed on our faces, to the ice creams they served from a booth by the lagoon. It even snowed while we were in there. Awesome.

4. Geysirs

Picture absent for now...unbelievably, I managed to leave behind both cameras and my phone on the first day, which I had helpfully packed all in the same pouch and left on my hotel room bed. Geysir picture to follow, when I can get one from a kid.

The amazing thing about these geysirs (and I have seen a lot of them, having visited Yellowstone...and yes, the spell it differently in Iceland) was how close we were allowed to get. The regular spouter has a small fence around it but if you stand upwind of it, you will more than likely be showered in water and enveloped in steam, which is what happens when you neither read signage nor pay attention to nature. I must say, I enjoyed the experience more in a culture devoid of superfluous lawsuits. Not only was I able to get close enough to really see what was happening, but we also found a little place where a geysir is definitely on its way. Little baby steam vents have appeared in the ground, and a teeny bubbling hole, right in the centre of the path. That path's route may have had to change in 10 years' time.

5. Columnar jointing

Spectacular! Columnar jointing is formed when lava of enormous depths cools. It forms long pillars which bang against each other and create hexagonal shapes. Seeing this in action is amazing. I spent quite some time staring at it and photographing it, and managed to pick up a lovely piece which had dropped off in the shape of a claw, although this sadly broke up into many pieces on the journey home.

6. Maybe the most beautiful beach ever

And I really love beaches. I consider myself something of a connoisseur. This was totally up there. There is no landmass to break these waves between this shore and Antarctica, so they are big, powerful breakers, which make pure white foam that covers the black sand (Iceland is almost all basalt) and provides the most awesome of contrasts. At this point, the pupils had gone over the hill with the guide and I had snatched a moment to myself to walk down to this beach. I am so very glad I did. Moment of the trip for me - and there were many other moments.

7. YARN!!

I was napping on the coach when it came to a stop, and the girls behind me said knowingly, "Bring your purse Miss - this is a wool factory!" They weren't kidding. I very nearly spent an awful lot of money, and considering my luggage ended up almost impossible to zip closed and almost half a kilo overweight, it was just as well I managed to stop myself at 12 balls of Lopi and a big, chunky pair of socks. There was a yarn factory behind the shop with a viewing gallery, although they were machine knitting the colourwork designs in big pieces of fabric and then cutting and stitching them into garments. There were plenty of handknits in the shop, though. I am fairly sure my socks are handknits.

8. Eating ice from a glacier

On Saturday morning, the coach turned off the main road and onto a snowy, rocky, single-land track, which wound alongside a river separated from the road by an increasingly steep bank and little else. At the end of this track, six enthusiastic Icelanders waited to fit us with harnesses and crampons, and arm us with ice axes. We then set off walking on the glacier. At this point we were in a crevass, hacking out some 800-year-old ice and having a taste. Pure!

9. Standing behind a waterfall

OK, I am in front of the waterfall here; but since the picture of me behind it has be backlit, you can't actually see me. It was wet and chilly, but extremely impressive. Iceland is known as the land of 10,000 waterfalls. To start with, we tried to count them as we saw them, but this proved impossible, as there were so many.

10. Hopping across continents

This trench marks the plate boundary between the Eurasian plate and the North American plate, which are moving apart at a rate of around 4cm a year. Iceland is basically formed due to this divergent, or constructive, plate boundary. It's amazing to see this in action: the cliffs either side of this trench are layered with the products of countless eruptions.

There were so many awesome moments in Iceland, my pictures and stories just don't do it justice. Unfortunately we missed the Northern Lights, due to the windy and snowy and cloudy weather; but the night we spent at the youth hostel (which was WAY more comfortable and pleasant than the hotel) we did have occasional flashes of sky, containing more stars than one might imagine existed. I think I saw even more stars that I saw from Death Valley. We had sun, hail, rain and snow - sometimes all in the space of an hour.

Also, if anybody loses their passport abroad on the day they travel home and this also happens to be a day their Embassy is closed, I now know what to do (thankfully, it wasn't me - but I might have had to spend an extra 2 nights in Iceland if we hadn't have found a way round it). My best tip: Keep a photograph of your passport on your phone/camera.

Unfortunately, as well as some good rock specimens and the yarn, I also brought a nasty bug back from Iceland and have been off sick for two days. I struggled with it from Friday but it didn't manage to cast too much of a shadow on what was an amazing trip. If you get a chance - go.

I am now 3 weekends through my marathon of 5 weekends away, so I may continue my relative blog silence for a little longer. I miss Weekword, though! I'll see what I can do for this Friday.