Sunday, 24 February 2013

Harry Potter and the Freecyclers of delight

I am a bit slow to the party with Harry, my children have only just discovered the delights of HP and his mates. I have no strong feelings about wizard stories, just never got around to watching /reading. Confess we are watching first, but I think Hannah will be up for a read if you have the books lyging around spare.

Another party I have recently got back into is the Freecycle gang. The wanted posts are priceless - one guy wants some axle stands, a wardrobe (double please but anything will help) and someone else wants a 16gb memory stick! One that amused me was the one asking for a fridge freezer 'for my pregnant sister' - like she is going to get in it for the labour? Another one said 'breast pads' then in the detail 'unopened and unused' - like you would be giving away used ones. Another wanted item was 'garden ornaments( I quite like gnomes)'.  Well, for heavens sake, do you like them or not? Because if you only quite like them, and get inundated with them from all four corners of Southampton, with people only too happy to send them to you, you had better like them, not just QUITE like them. Or else you will end up hating them pretty quick. I notice that the area of Southampton Freecycle seems to have expanded to take in Bishops Waltham and West Wellow, so hopefully there will be some higher standard gnomes on their way to the gnome liker.

As my faithful one follower will know, winter sports are one of my passions, and I like to spend the two years immediately after the summer Olympics fine honing my skills for the Winter event. I never know whether to really go for it with the ski jump or the slalom, and end up doing neither, but having a lovely time in the Alps nonetheless.  Just yesterday I got back from an intensive training week in Austria. I took my family along so they could see how skiing is done by a real professional (shame wit did not spot any). We also took the Whitmore family along for their second ever family ski holiday - the first was taken when the eldest children were 3,2 and 1 and Matthew was the size of a cake crumb, so all of them had been practising at the dry ski slope for months in anticpation. The snow conditions were perfect in Loser and Tauplitz, the two small and secret ski areas we returned to after a lovely time there two years ago. We stayed once again in Haus Gisela, all ten of us taking up the 2 apartments and the b and b room. I can highly recommend the accomodation for skiing or for a summer holiday, within a five minute walk you are on the shore of a beautiful lake, and it is a perfect place for walking, biking, eating apple strudel and other delights of Austria.

It snowed every night, and was already deep, so the pistes were perfect. Never content on the piste, A decided on day 1 to head off through the trees at the side - children often do this thing where they follow tracks along the side behind a few trees then come hurtling back on. Except she did not do the hurtling bit. And did not shout back when we shouted. So I stayed around and prayed and shouted, and R headed back down to the bottom and got a rescue team out to her - by which time she had got herself out of the hole she was in and back onto the piste. Bless her, she didn't cry but did panic a bit. R and I did more than panic. Tried not to be too cross with her, just pleased she in one piece. Kept her on a much tighter rein from then on.  A has two skiing styles, a controlled snow plough descent, or an uncontrolled paralled descent. Either seem to work for her and she seems to be blessed with a low centre of gravity. H just makes it look easy and is great at picking out routes for less experienced skiers (aka Whitmores) to follow. The Whitmores are such a gung ho gang they were bound to have a good time and on the last day Joe nearly beat R in a race down. R enjoyed using his speedo app (NOT to be confused with Speedos - bad ski wear) to find out his top speed - he managed over 40mph top speed, although I challenged him to make that his average speed he was not quite there yet, I am sure he will be by the time the Olympics come around.

R did excel at high speed driving yesterday, as heavy snow fall and an early start for the 180 mile drive back to Vienna for the flight worked together with 3 sets of snow ploughs on the main road  to make our average speed less than it needed to be. We arrived with forty minutes before the flight, and took the decision to attempt to get me and the girls on the flight, while R dealt with the hire car return and missed the flight. So after an adrenalin fuelled risky drive on snow and ice that would not have looked out of place on Top Gear ( nice car, I drove it and enjoyed it! Skodia Estate 4x4), he threw us out at departures and we sprinted to the check in to find that the flight was delayed due to the ...snow. Of course. So, we all made the flight which was two hours late, with time to enjoy one of those random 'meals' which cost you more than the rest of the holiday put together, because you are enjoying said 'meal' in an airport - meal consisting of drinks drunk very slowly so you can justify sitting on the only seats around, which are in the cafe, and a croissant shared one between two because they are so expensive you don't think there are enough Euros in the universe, let alone in the random remainder of cents you are scraping together to pay for said items.

I had a couple of one to one skiing lessons, which are expensive but worth it if you ski at the level I do (intermediate is I think the polite term). The teacher, Sarah, was an excellent teacher, telling me one thing to change to improve my style and confidence to turn at greater speeds and in tighter confines, so I can develop feeling a bit more happy on any kind of slope. It made me think about what makes a good teacher, and praise and one point at a time to develop seem to be the secrets of success - not really very secret either.

Not content with spending today resting our aching limbs, we had already scheduled a meeting with a man about a dog. All my married life, I have told my husband that he may own a dog when I die. Even up until a month ago, then we met George, rescue dog living a happy life with our good friends, the Gales. George is such a nice polite dog, and we have had him to hang out at our house for a couple of Tuesdays lately without disaster. R has wanted a dog since he was born, almost, and spent his childhood dreaming of having a dog. The girls are keen on dogs, and I came to the conclusion that there were three of them, and one of me, and I am at work all the time anyway, so who am I to stand in the way of the doggy happiness of my family? No sooner had I relented, or even slightly mentioned considering relenting, that the Lurcher website was consulted ( I do not know why he wants a Lurcher, it was that or a Greyhound) and a suitable four legged friend was found at the local Blue Cross centre. Except she is not four legged, but three legged. R and A met her last week and H and I went along as well today for the family meeting and interview. Well, I was so nervous, but she (the dog) seemed to like me, and even did some of the things we asked her to. Despite only having 3 legs, and having lost the 4th one recently, she hurtles around at speed, and the staff member we talked to thinks she still has enough speed to catch a rabbit. So that is dinner sorted on a daily basis - until next door's rabbits are all gone.  She is a very friendly and sociable dog, and despite being a bit bigger then I had in mind for a dog, is pretty and smiley and when she wags her tail her whole body wags.  So she is coming to live with us, her forever family, next week. She can not come earlier as it is my birthday and there is a secret planned.

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