Monday, 10 July 2017

Wimbledon time

 I am loving Wimbledon this year. Well, I love it every year but this year I have actually got to sit down and watch full matches as my daughters have grown a little older and are in school in the afternoon a little more often. I cannot remember the last time I got to watch a full blown live Wimbledon match as I used to work too back in the UK. Jeez, it was probably 25 years or so ago when I was at college! So yes, it is a pretty special Wimbledon year for me.

And I love it. I was brought up on it as a kid – my mum was tennis mad. And Wimbledon was always an occasion when we would feel particularly close together through my tricky teen years. She even knocked off work early to watch with me after school! I’m a bit gutted that we never actually went along to the holy home of tennis but anyway we watched it on the TV pretty much every day solid for two weeks. I would get home from school and join her on the sofa to avidly watch the Greats of my childhood - Jimmy Connors, Bjon Borg, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Boris Becker, Steffi Graf… the list is long and holds such exciting memories of my childhood.

And now I am in Switzerland and get to cheer on Roger Federer too! What a tennis great. And a true gentleman. And then there’s Andy Murray (a Brit!) and Nadal – (ooo those muscles…) The Swiss love to watch their tennis champs compete in the pub so I’m also enjoying the very unusual experience of watching in a tennis fan community – see last post.

So today I am made up to see Brits Andy Murray and Jo Konta go through to the quarter finals. This is a huge accomplishment as she is the first British woman to go through to the quarter finals since 1984. I loved 1984 – one of my very favourite childhood years. Martina Navratilova beat Chris Evert at Wimbledon, I was 12, I felt I was coming of age – went to ‘big school’ and had lots of friends. It felt like a golden time at the movies – Ghostbusters, Karate Kid, The Terminator…so yes I will be reliving this golden year tonight in celebration of Jo Konta’s success today. I’ll be cracking open the popcorn, drinking ginger beer – can’t find Dandelion and Burdock here – and watching Karate Kid.

I would love to hear about favourite movies, tunes, moments from 1984 from any fellow 40 somethings out there – let’s celebrate together!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Swiss love of sport (and a beer)

I love how much enthusiasm the Swiss have for their sports stars and teams, whether the sport is hockey, football or tennis. And they love to enjoy a beer at the same time. So you will find them propping up the bar in the pub cheering for Federer at Wimbledon as often as you will find them cheering on the Swiss Hockey or football team in the World Cup. I find this extremely refreshing. My only experience of sport in pubs in the UK was of football.

And so it was last Friday, hubbie and I found ourselves in the pub - making the most of a rare opportunity to enjoy a beer while both daughters attended a birthday party – enjoying the match between Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray in the semi-final of the French Open.

I should have been cheering for Murray but I wasn’t. Murray annoys me somehow. I enjoy watching his skill but I don’t enjoy watching his character. He’s so serious and he gurns. And he’s Scottish of course (having a very good Scottish friend I greatly enjoy the friendly animosity these two nationalities have for each other – my friend would never cheer for an English player at Wimbledon) And for me, Wawrinka is far more watchable, in every way ;) He was rampant on Friday, trading blows with Murray and digging in his heels until the bitter end. What a game it was. He served with more potency than Murray, seven aces to one, and his defensive game has greatly improved.

I cheered along with my Swiss companions, and was over the moon when Wawrinka won, over five sets in four and a half hours. Murray heads immediately for home to prepare to defend his titles at Queen’s and Wimbledon, as well as the points that leave him unchallenged for a little while yet at the top of the world rankings.

Unfortunately the 32-year-old couldn’t grab a French Open victory by maintaining the same assault against the incredible  Rafael Nadal. He was demolished at the last post in a brutal one-sided final on Sunday – the score: 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.

The triumph gave Rafael Nadal his tenth French Open title which also earned the Spaniard a 15th Grand Slam crown. His collection of Slams now stands just three behind his great Swiss rival Roger Federer.

Ever the gentleman, Wawrinka honourably praised his opponent: "There is nothing to say about today, you were too good," he admitted.
   
"What you are doing in tennis is unbelievable.It's always been an honour to play against you, two Grand Slam finals now, congratulations to you for your career and your team."

Monday, 15 May 2017

Swiss to vote on 'Energy Strategy 2050'

Swiss voters will have their say this Sunday (May 21st) on the government’s ‘energy strategy 2050’.

Spearheaded by Swiss president and energy minister Doris Leuthard and drawn up partly in reaction to the 2011 nuclear reactor disaster in Fukushima, Japan, the energy strategy 2050 aims to gradually withdraw Switzerland from nuclear power and increase its use of renewable energy sources.

Under the plans no new nuclear power plants will be built in Switzerland and the five that do exist – including the world's oldest operating reactor, Beznau I – will be decommissioned at the end of their technically safe operating life.

The strategy will focus on exploiting hydropower and other renewable resources such as wind and solar power, as well as increasing energy efficiency by offering tax incentives for energy-efficient building works and tightening emissions rules for passenger vehicles.

These measures require changes to the existing energy law and the first set were approved by the Swiss parliament last September.

Swiss canton of Valais launches new local currency

From now on you can pay for purchases in Valais not only in Swiss francs but in farinets, the new ‘local currency’ of the canton. The farinet was launched at the weekend in the city of Sion. It comes in eight denominations – 1,2, 5, 10, 13, 20, 50 and 100 – and has the same value as the Swiss franc.

So far around 100 shops and businesses in the canton have agreed to accept the farinet for payment, including cafes and restaurants, small businesses and independent traders. Shoppers can exchange their francs for farinets in various official bureaux de change including at the tourist office in Sion and the markets of Sion, Sierre and Martigny.

Participating businesses – listed on an interactive map – will accept either full or partial payment in farinets.

The concept of a local currency has existed since the 1980s. By restricting its use to a limited geographical area it encourages shoppers to spend locally, so boosting the local economy and favouring small businesses and artisans.

The farinet is the Switzerland’s second local currency after the léman launched in Geneva in 2015. The léman is equivalent in value to the euro and can be used in more than 200 participating businesses in the Lac Léman region including Lausanne and neighbouring France.

Around 5,000 local currencies exist worldwide, including the Brixton pound and the Bristol pound in the UK and the eusko in the Basque country.

Guardian article about the popularity of the local currency in the UK.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Zurich: most expensive city for a date

I’m so glad I’m not ‘on the market’ here in Switzerland as its banking hub has been ranked the most expensive location to date the girl or guy of your dreams.

For at least the second year running, Zurich has taken top place for the most expensive city for a date – cab rides, dinner for two at a pub, soft drinks, two movie tickets and a couple of beers  – according to Deutsche Bank’s special report ‘Mapping the World’s Prices 2017’.

In the city home to both UBS and Credit Suisse, an average night out costs the equivalent of £151.40 – 147% more than seventh-ranked New York.

The aim of the research is to provide insight into whether or not exchange rates do actually adjust to correct large price differentials across countries and time, as conventional economic theory suggests they should – all else being equal. 

However, what this research ignores is the fact that everyone gets paid so much more than they do in other countries – and this leads me onto the blindingly obvious point that the best place to bag your prince charming is in Zurich – a heaving wallet (and usually very respectful outlooks) should suggest a substantial amount of future happiness.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Swiss Solidarity fundraising for famine victims in Africa

The UN reports that the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War is unfolding in Africa. Swiss Solidarity and its partner relief organizations has launched an appeal for donations and 1m Swiss francs has already been raised. Today (11th March) Swiss Solidarity and the Swiss Broadcasting Company (SRG SSR) has organised a major fundraising 24 hour campaign to help the victims of famine in Africa.

The national fundraising day is being organized by Swiss Solidarity and the Swiss Broadcasting Company (SRG SSR) and is supported by Swiss Solidarity’s partner relief organizations, an association of private radio stations (‘Privatradios pro Glückskette’), and other private media outlets. Numerous fundraising events have also been organized by the public.

From 6am this morning until midnight, more than 300 volunteers in four SRG SSR studios in Zurich, Chur, Lugano and Geneva will receive donation pledges via telephone.

Swiss Solidarity's partner relief organizations are already operating in Africa, but there is not enough money to continue their work in helping the local population. In South Sudan, where access to the worst hit regions is severely restricted, HEKS, Medair, Caritas Switzerland, the Swiss Red Cross and Terre des hommes – helping children worldwide are providing emergency relief to several thousand people, distributing food, water and medical aid. In Somalia, where the situation has deteriorated recently owing to a cholera epidemic, Save the Children, ADRA and Medair are providing relief. In Nigeria, Save the Children is helping large groups of refugees, using individual sums given by Swiss Solidarity.

Ways to make a donation:
  • Online at www.swiss-solidarity.org
  • Via your mobile with the Swiss Solidarity app
  • With post office account 10-15000-6 (with the text “Famine”) 
  • With Swiss Solidarity payment also available at all post offices. 
  • On Twitter you can also raise money simply by retweeting #SwissSolidarityForAfrica with a photograph.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Join Zurich Children's Libraries for free

@PBZ Sihlcity
My 10-year-old daughter is a prolific reader, in English and German, which I am keen to encourage for as long as I can. However, she much prefers to read in English so we are constantly hunting down ways to get hold of new books she can devour. We love libraries, which thankfully still seem to be very popular here in Switzerland. Poppy has read her way through the local village library and the library at Winterthur so we needed to head somewhere new.

I thought, where will the biggest collection of books be? Surely Zurich’s main library. Boy, was I wrong. Yesterday, we visited said library – on Muhlegasse, just off Neiderdorfstrasse – which was in a beautiful old building. As we made our way in we were stopped at the door by a security lady (who was really sweet and apologetic) and told we had to put our bags in a locker downstairs, which you needed a 2fr for (fortunately there was a change machine) Then my daughters decided they needed the toilet. So after half an hour of faffing around we eventually got inside the library – to find there were no books - immediately evident anyway. There were lots of people reading and studying but the books seemed to be an afterthought. We hunted around a little, climbing many stairs up to the top floor – where we eventually found some books. However by then I felt far too conspicuous with the only two children in the library alongside me and by now we were getting a few slightly irritated looks, so I gave up and sheepishly slinked out again, with two very fed up daughters in tow, muttering about a completely wasted hour. Fortunately I spotted the information desk and asked about children’s books, to be met with an amused smile and told that perhaps the ‘Pestalozzi Bibliothek’ 200 metres down the road would be more suitable.  

So we began another half-hearted hunt – and then up popped the Pestalozzi – formally the PBZ - which is actually a library dedicated to children! And get this - it’s free to join for all children up to the age of 16. (I think there is also an adult section and adults can join for 40fr) The library was down some gorgeous wooden stairs tucked away in a corner, making it feel very secret – and then you arrive in a brightly lit, spacious underground grotto full of books, comics, CDs and films. My daughters LOVE this place. There were books galore – and if there is a particular item that you would like to borrow, you can make a purchase suggestion and the library will consider buying the item - double whammy. There are lots of events taking place throughout the year, including those I have mentioned below.

And best of all – it is one of 14 dotted around the city, including at Sihlcity and Oerlikon – and you can return your books to any one of them. This works out nicely for us as we often visit the cinema at Sihlcity. I highly recommend this place – the English language book section was small but had a good, diverse selection – and of course there are plenty of other libraries we are now able to explore. Happy reading!

Up and coming events at PBZ libraries:

Easter Story, PBZ Sihlcity Mall, Erdgeschoss
For children from 4 years
Date: 15.04.2017
Time: 14.30 und 15.30

Reading in Riesbachs Garten, PBZ Riesbach
12 – to 16 authors can present their own short stories.
Date: 24.06.2017
Time: 2 pm

Parent-Child Coding Course, PBZ Affoltern
Children, together with an adult companion can playfully discover the digital world, creating their own computer or programming a dance figure.
Date: 06.05.2017 to 10.06.2017 (on five Saturdays)
Time: 9am until 10.30am

PBZ library website