16 May 2013
You know the situation: you travel on a plane, it touches down, and well before the captain turns off the Fasten your seatbelts signs, most of your fellow passengers open their buckles and jump up to make sure they’re first to the overhead locker and first out of the plane. Of course this inevitably means they are standing in the aisle and waiting for the plane doors to be opened for varying amounts of time. I always thought of myself as smart for staying sat and waiting for the most impatient travellers to leave before retrieving my own hand luggage. Well, I got punished for that habit the other day. Birgit and I were going back from Gothenburg to Lyon after the house buying negotiations. We had to go via Frankfurt, and when I got up after that first flight to get my anorak from the overhead locker, it was nowhere to be found. There was a black blouson jacket that looked somewhat similar to mine, so it was pretty clear that someone had taken mine for his own and left with it. I informed the flight attendants and the airport staff, and I did my best to look for someone carrying my parka in the airfield buses that were picking us up, but to no avail. I then got under pressure to get on the bus myself, because there was not a huge amount of time left until the connecting flight. It was only when we had already left on that bus that I realized that I had not only lost that old The North Face piece of garment, but also my car key, which I had safely placed in one of the zipper pockets. I immediately tried to get help from everyone who looked like they worked at the airport to ask whether there might be a way to catch up with the purloiner of my impermeable. The response was underwhelming, the most help I got was from someone who rang the lost property office from the gate desk. Of course, it was much too soon for my goods to have been handed in — in fact, we had reason to assume that they had not even left the security zone (and the office is outside). So we were going to fly back to Lyon without the car key, and thus without a means of removing our car from the rather expensive airport car park. In the end, we managed to get a hold of Linus, who was at home, was able to locate the spare key, and was willing and able to get on the tram shuttle and meet us at the airport. Need I tell you he was our hero that night?
The modern programmed electronic key fobs that enter an encrypted wireless dialogue with your car electronics to unlock the doors, the immobilizer, and the ignition are expensive to replace (minimum €250 in France). So we were still keen to get my outerwear back. Have you ever tried to get in touch with someone from Lufthansa about something other than booking a flight? Let me tell you, it seemed nigh impossible at the time. What did work in the end, though, was filing an online complaint. After ten days, a friendly, cheerful lady from the complaints department rang me up and said that she had traced my property. Apparently it had been handed in, now all I needed to do was to email my address and it would be sent to me in the mail. Five days later I did indeed receive a package containing my short rain coat and — tadaa! — the car key.
While I did get fairly annoyed at some point with the jobsworth attitude of those people in Frankfurt, I did in the end have a lot to be grateful for. After all, Fortune smiled on us when we found a painless way to get home from Lyon St Exupéry, when the person who had taken my jacket made a move to correct that mistake (they must at least have taken a detour), when the car key decided to stay in the pocket during all those travels, when the find was recorded in a traceable manner, and when my complaint went to someone who was able to connect the dots.
We’ll write more about our experience of property hunting in Sweden some time soon, so watch this space
Blimey, it’s almost three months since I last posted anything. I just checked whether this blog still has visitors and, lo and behold, we have readers out there. Thank you for dropping by! I much appreciate it and it certainly motivates me to post again.
Life has been so busy for our family. We are about to embark on our Sweden adventure with only a good 12 weeks left in Lyon and we have been preparing this big step for the last few months: We’ve visited Sweden to look at schools and explore our new hometown, I had an informal interview (which I am pleased to say went well, so even for me, the trailing wife, the job situation is somewhat promising!)
Very importantly, we also looked into housing and now we are currently in the process of buying a place way up in Northern Europe. This is all very exciting and a new experience for us — the process only bears some similarity to our previous jump onto the property ladder in the UK. But all seems to be going well so far and hopefully we will be able to finalize the purchase of the house in the near future.
But I was not really going to talk about all this, which is just external, preparatory stuff for our life in Sweden. I find it so much more important to share with you how wonderful it is that we have the opportunity to start a brand new life:
We will be moving from our beautifully quirky, shabby-chic Lyon town centre apartment into a house just outside Gothenburg. A huge nature reserve boasting beautiful lakes will separate us from the city. We are in fact swapping city-life for something akin to countryside living. This was, at least for me, not an easy decision to take, because I love living in town, I love people watching, hanging out in the cafés, enjoying the sunshine (yes, we skipped spring and went straight into summer just this week!) and being able to go out any time to see a movie or benefit from some retail therapy, all without having to use a car.
Gothenburg will be different. Although we will be very well connected to the town by public transport, we are going to live in an oasis of nature, peace and quiet (or so I think, we’ll yet have to wait and see ).
I became so acutely aware of how much I will miss the city life just yesterday, when I went to the market. Lyon was teeming with people enjoying a sunny, warm and lazy Sunday morning. This is so typical: As soon as the sun’s out, people seem to be out on the town and that’s what I like so much.
This is will be different in Sweden: From what I could gather, people in Sweden live very much in tune with the seasons, their short, bright summers and the long, cold winters. They seem to go out in the summer and get cozy indoors in the winter. We decided to go along with this and looked for a spot that offers us comfy hibernation accommodation. We think we have found just the place. It is great that with this house also comes a decent sized garden that has already inspired me to no end. Lucy and I are planning on fostering our countryside-tendencies by keeping chickens and growing vegetables in a permaculture. I have been reading about both and universe after universe of fascinating knowledge keeps popping up.
I am so excited about having the opportunity to try country life and I can’t wait to put all my farming plans into practice. (Although I have the option of escaping to Gothenburg town centre by bus within 20 minutes, or even by bike )
So once we have successfully managed our move, transferred those belongings that survive the clear out from France to Sweden and unpacked at least the essentials, I will start gardening and I will have loads to write about. Bear with us until then, we are all inspired about getting creative with gardening and I have a feeling that this blog will move into a new direction over the next year or so.
Have a great day and I hope, wherever you are, the sun is also shining on you!
29 January 2013
I have been toying with the idea of buying an e-reader for a while now. Initially I wanted one to help me manage and annote research papers, but the internet tells me that e-readers are not great for that kind of thing. So I came off the idea. Still, I almost, almost bought one last week. I did not do it in the end, because I am reluctant to read on screen. I spend too much time in front of the computer as it is and an e-reader would not help matters. I am also a person who literally likes to stick there nose in a book and take in the smell of cheap paper, glossy paper, old faded paper, fresh ink, remnants of solvents (oh, I go for those ). Another argument against it is that in my experience electronic gadgets have a shelf life of a few years. Does it make sense to fork out 100+Euros for a thing that might only work for four years? And there is the tying yourself to a company like Amazon and giving them access to your device… So as yet no e-reader in the Heckemann household.
But the thought sticks in my head. How on earth did it get to be so obstinate, persistent and hard to eradicate? I always thought that I don’t easily fall prey to lifestyle products, but on the contrary, my case is worse: Easy prey, yet late adopter. How uncool is that?
So I am still undecided, but I thought that I should at least give e-readers a try. So at the weekend I bought my first e-book which I am now reading on my Mac. Quite aptly it’s Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore, a book about real books, old books, e-readers, Google and a secret cult. This is a novel that I have been wanting to stick my nose into for a few months.
Now I am just reading it, not smelling it. So far the experience is ok. I can read easily on screen, the print is nice, obviously I can fiddle with the background and font size. Turning pages by pressing buttons feels odd, but it’s just a matter of getting used to, I guess.
This experience has again fed the “e-read-weed” in my head. My cunning brain has now convinced me that an e-reader could be of use to me after all: To store those novels that I like, consume and that, as hard copies, afterwards occupy shelf space waiting to be passed on to someone else. Alas, they often do not get passed on. So basically I am (yet again) responding to the argument that by buying a product I can make my life and living space less cluttered and more organized. This is just like Ikea catalogues work!!! (And yes, just think about the imminent move! All those boxes full of books that could be avoided). So much for my free will that somewhat does not feel too free at present . I’ll keep on pondering for a few days and see if the “e-read-weed” shrivels up and dies a natural death or whether the only cure is to buy yet another gadget to simplify my life.
Enjoy whatever you’re reading!
PS: If you are planning to read Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore, do it within the next couple of years! It is a cool book and it provides a snapshot of the current state of art in computing as well as on social interaction and a few other things. It will read weird and dated though in ten years time… and our grand-children will marvel at the funny things they did back in the second decade of this millenium :)
15 January 2013
I have a number of ‘firsts’ lined up. Knowing that we will be leaving this friendly town soon has led me to come up with a number of projects and plans that I absolutely need to accomplish before we’ve gone.
The first one was going to the beauty salon for a mid-winter treatment of my sun-deprived skin — a quick facial and tinting of my eyelashes. What an adventure!
Let me tell you, I came out looking worse than I did when I set foot into this oasis of beauty: My hair was an absolute mess because the beautician had spread the facial stuff – whatever it was, it smelled lovely – not just over my face, but she had also managed to give my hair a nourishing mask… But greasy looking hair aside, the worst was that I left the salon with dark panda eyes (the lady had not covered the skin round my eyes sufficiently before colouring my lashes).
Knowing that I looked as if had just cried in a public toilet wearing full non-tear-proof eye make-up , I kept my eyes down and made my way home as quickly as my old legs would carry me….
Back in the safety of our den, I turned to the almighty internet, which did not disappoint and swiftly provided several strategies to deal with my panda eyes. The treatment was oh so painful, but I managed to remove most of the colour that had seeped into the skin around my eyes. I also washed my hair and lo and behold, today I can look in the mirror without feeling like a tramp. Hoorah.
You might ask yourself: “Why did she not complain?” I tell you, normally I would have thrown a tantrum, but I was honestly too shocked, I had not expected this kind of outcome at all. I just wanted to get out of that place, and will never, ever return.
- My natural looks aren’t all that bad! If I stay as far away as possible from beauticians I might look just fine for another decade.
- If there should be a next time (the face massage was nice after all): Ask a friend for a recommendation.
- A visit at a beauty salon is potentially a lot more dangerous than I thought it would be: In their everyday working practice, beauticians handle chemicals which might be harmful. If the stinging the colouring lotion caused is anything to go by, it might potentially do quite a bit of harm to your eyesight. And that was just a teeny-tiny treatment, I have no idea what else they do for their customers. So I wonder:
- Does a lot of stuff go wrong in these beauty places?
- Would beauticians actually know how to deal with incidents such as allergic reactions?
This would make a really interesting bit of research into a market that is supposed to enhance your beauty and wellbeing. I really wonder if it does most of the time….It did the trick for me though, because if I look in the mirror today, I feel like I look great! .
So if you, dear reader, are currently looking for a beauty place in Lyon, contact me. I can tell you where NOT to go
8 January 2013
So here it is, 2013. We welcomed it amongst friends, delicious food and drink here in Lyon. And now, as always this early in January, I wonder what this year will bring. It’s still so new, crisp, and shiny! Something to marvel at.
If anything I think, it will be change, change and more change. And not just for us. We have a number of friends who consider, or already have concrete plans, to leave Lyon, Europe, or the Northern Hemisphere altogether, who want to change jobs or are just starting new jobs, who have big changes looming in their family lives… it seems to me that we are currently floating around in a ‘cloud of mobile people’ whose lives are in constant flux. (I don’t want to call it ”expat community”, as this “cloud” is most certainly not made up of well-to-do, company sponsored employees or diplomats that may be associated with the term). Despite all the work and logistical challenges associated with big changes (uarghh moving!!! I am so over it…), these people, just like us, realize and enjoy the positive aspect of a fresh start. When changing countries, there is hardly anything as invigorating (and at the same time exhausting ) as experiencing a new culture, seeing your own culture from a different perspective and letting this change who you are along the way.
Recently, I realized that this “cloud of mobile people” is a most incredible resource to facilitate our impending move. One very distinct feature of the “cloud” is the ease with which people, who may be mere acquaintances, network, help, and support each other. So we’re preparing to leave Lyon for that cold, but apparently friendly, country way up North knowing that we’re by no means on our own with this. The other day, for example, I met a mum with whom I had run the primary school library a couple of years ago. When I told her about our planned move to Sweden, she immediately offered to put me in touch with a lovely family that recently moved from Lyon to Gothenburg. Their children used to go to our local school in Lyon and are apparently now happily settled at the school in Gothenburg that we have (tentatively) picked for Lucy. Another acquaintance of mine actually spent 30 years in Gothenburg, so has in-depth local knowledge that she is happy to share with me. I have thus already recommendations for an excellent family doctor, massage therapist, swimming pool, food hall… I think there is more information to come my way over coffees and lunches in the next few months . She also managed to put my worries about Swedish food to rest: Apparently there is more to eat than fish and rye bread up North. Thank goodness! Just to be on the safe side I have still booked myself in for a special “fish cooking class” here in Lyon. One has to prepare …
I am starting this year curious as to the challenges, opportunities, and experiences it will bring, knowing that it is not going to be plain sailing all the way. There is so much more happening in our lives than just our move and, as usual, fate may serve you a big, fat plateful of worry and pain when you least need it. But still: We hope and wish for all of you dears out there that life will be exciting and full of goodness and health in the next 12 months! Enjoy!
15 December 2012
The architecture may be questionable, but the aroma makes up for it
9 December 2012
We have a trashy little family project going on which is actively endorsed by roughly 75% of our family. I unashamedly admit that I am the one who initiated it. All the more so since I watched Daniel Craig in Skyfall — a classy piece of trash that totally blew me away when I watched it for the first time.
I guess now you know what this project is about. Yes! The plan is to watch ALL JAMES BOND films since 1962 (those by Eon Productions). We actually started watching the films back in September, I think, a few weeks before the release of ‘Skyfall’ and swiftly worked our way through the films produced between 1962 and 1971 — I loved those films bar the one from 1969 which starrs George Lazenby. I didn’t make it through that one and dropped out after 2/3 of the film had finished. Then came one more “Sean Connery Bond ” (Diamonds Are Forever) and since then things have become VERY challenging.
We’re now trying to get through seven Roger Moore films (1973 – 1985) and I find it tough. It’s not just because Moore is less easy on the eye than Sean Connery (although he definitely is ). Having watched a couple of films from the 70s I think it’s mostly down to a change in the producers’/ director’s attitude towards the character. The producers took the Bond character seriously in the 60s, despite (or because) all those crazy gadgets and weird villains. The 60s Bond character seems to be in line with an age where there was a strong belief in plastic, space travel, and generally technology being just a fab thing. But the 60s Bond character does not fit so snugly into the 70s. How on earth does a martini-slurping macho guy in tailored suits who does nothing but save the world in the planet’s most scenic locations fit into an age of massive social unrest and cultural change? For example, Women’s Lib, hippie culture and the anti-war movement only became mass movements in the 70s. So as a producer you have few choices, one of which is to make Bond a caricature of the somewhat stylish 60s character, take him less seriously and leave the viewer to wonder what all this is supposed to mean. I struggle with the 70s Bond (so far anyway) because he seems so anachronistic and the slight references I have seen to women’s lib (a female scientist with a PhD working for the villain in “Moonraker”) is swiftly cancelled out by all those girls in short skirts who topple over backwards as soon as lay eyes on Bond.
Enough rambling done! I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel with Daniel Craig playing Bond from 2006 onwards. In Skyfall Bond seems to finally have caught up with his time. Although he still does stuff that is just not humanly possible, the troubled character he has become is a lot more gripping, convincing and congruent than Roger Moore’s Bond.
Yet there are eleven films to go… But I am certain I’ll stick to the project, because first and foremost it’s a really nice thing to do as a family. It’s so easy to get everybody to get together for a trashy night with a tv dinner and James Bond on the screen: The children love the car chases and fantastic explosions. (Just for the record: they hate the snogging scenes and would prefer them edited out. ) Doing this as a family is what makes it bearable to suffer through the 70s, 80s and 90s to my personal light at the end of the tunnel — and who knows, maybe Pierce Brosnan or Timothy Dalton will surprise me after all?