Back to the old grind

I’ve been retired now for almost six and a half years. I worked 32 years for the City, mostly at our small airport, which I loved. I knew I needed something to do, in my retirement, to give me routine or I would simply get lost in days filled with no responsibilities, in a book or worse, in front of the computer screen. When I handed in my notice I drove down the street and applied for a job driving school bus. And got it!!

A lot of people wrinkle their noses when I say I drive school bus. “Oh, how can you stand the kids?!? I’d go crazy!!” I’ve worked for two different companies and have had essentially rural routes both times. The kids are no problem at all, polite when they interact, their heads buried in screens the rest of the time. I’ve had one parent from hell, (but that is now resolved) but the kids have been fine. Perhaps in the city it might be a different story but the runs are so short, would it really matter?

My work day now starts at six. I’m out of the yard at 7:15, coffee in my travel mug, off to my first pick up at 7:45. We’re at the school at 8:30 and I’m home again at 9:00. 130/140 kilometres, depending who’s on.

In the afternoon I head to the school at 2:30, do everything in reverse and am home at 5:00. I never thought I would like the split shift but it’s amazing how much can be done in those five and a half hours. I love the driving, particularly the dead-heading, when I’m empty. I see the most glorious sunrises and sunsets, brilliant moons, wildlife galore. Moose are always impressive but my favourite are the snowy owls. Huge birds, they swoop and glide effortlessly alongside the bus. In the fall, the flocks of geese are stunning both in their size and the racket they make, I can hear them over the sound of the bus engine.

And even the smallest of creatures are out–just before the Christmas break a weasel, in his white ermine winter coat, was out running and flipping on the road in front of the bus. I slowed to let him cross, his black tipped tail flicking with a life of its own.

And of course the pay doesn’t hurt. I could live on my pension but I’d never travel. So it’s a win-win. I’m doing something I love and getting paid for it.

The holidays have been nice but I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine again. Old Betsy looks like she keen to go too!!

Time flies

I just saw a meme on Facebook a while ago. 

I mean how true is that!!  Thirty years ago will always be 1970!!

I’ve never been one for New Years’ resolutions. But this year I have a goal, inspired partly by a British blogger I’ve been following, and partly by my kids dad.

Shazza over at sunshine and celadines lives in northern England (my favourite bit) and posts about marvellous walks and rambles she takes with her partner and dog Hugo. I intend to use her blog as a travel guide the next time I’m there as she has walked all the places I want to see and some that are new to me but no less interesting. She also participates in something called the 1000 mile challenge (hope I’ve got that right) and logs her miles walked for the year. I believe it’s a program to get people moving and off the couch. Shazza walked over 1500 miles in 2018!!  Way to go. So go check out her blog—https://sunshineandcelandines.wordpress.com

And my kids dad, who after 35 years with Transport Canada/NavCanada, retired and began a new career as a postie, delivering mail. He walks an average of 100k a week and has lost forty pounds. I’m so proud of him. (You can see he rests on the weekend 😜)It was -28C the past couple days. Nasty for walking.

So my goal for the year is to get moving more. It’s really hard when my natural habitat is the corner of the couch with a stack of books but I’m going to try. My son is off traveling for work and I’ll have his big dog to look after.  For three weeks I’ll be walking. Is that enough time to form a habit?  Guess we’ll see.

Here’s wishing you a fabulous New Year filled with reasons to get off the couch and move!!

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

Well that’s not exactly true is it???

I arrived home to balmy temperatures and was happy to see my little rust bucket of a car was still in one piece.I brushed the snow off it in the morning before I took a picture but this is the neighbor. I stopped at IKEA before I left Edmonton, and the Italian shop, then enjoyed my leisurely drive home.

I think my daughter liked her present. I picked up my bus and went right back to work. It’s light later here than Vienna but that may have something to do with daylight savings time and not latitude as we are only a few degrees apart. It was getting dark around four local time in Vienna and here at home it was light until 5:30 pm. The sunrises coming home are spectacular as always. You can just see my Christmas candles there in the drive. One of the first things I did was to set out my candles. I always have good intentions of setting out the stakes that hold the candles in place before the ground freezes but this fall was just a disaster and I didn’t get to it. So I shoveled away the snow where I thought the holes were and low and behold I found them. But they filled in slightly over the summer. I got a few gallons of hot water and my big crow bar and went to work making them deeper. Of course I just wound up wearing the mud from the holes. But I set the posts and let them freeze in overnight. The next morning I set out the candles. I even found some lights in the barn to put on the deck. Now it looks like Christmas.

Now back to these creatures. My daughter ran me thru the chore routine do I would know what she had been doing. She said something was eating the leftover dog food, and she thought it might be our squirrel or a stray cat. We had a beautiful stray who was hanging around this summer–Fuzz-Butt. He’s still hanging around. He wants desperately to come into the house but he is not neutered and I’m afraid he would spray everywhere in the house not to mention fighting with our house cats. So he has to stay outside. I set up the trail cam in the granary to see what’s been eating the dog food. Well, it was like Grand Central Station in there. Everyone was in and out of the granary. First, yet another stray cat. A black one who’s been fighting with everyone, including Fuzz-Butt. Look at his poor bloody ear. OK, so the black cat. Then my big dog had to stick her nose in. Then our own Momma Cat. Then some pretty cheeky magpies!!And then there were the mice!! See him???How about now?And another one!!And a couple more!!Then as if that’s not bad enough, yesterday I went to get a clean towel from under my sink and saw fresh mouse poop everywhere!!! I just put laundry away and it was clean, then two days later, a horrible mess!!! Well I got the mouse traps out and baited them with some smelly chewy candy and voila–one down. I left the traps in case there are more. I’ll be emptying that cupboard and bleaching everything within an inch of its life. The little buggers were even eating my soap!! How the hell they got in I don’t know and why aren’t the damn cats eating them!! But I’m thankful they aren’t in my pantry. The hazards of living in the country.

I’ve been baking up a storm too–vanillekipferl from my cousins recipe and ginger bread, and chocolate pinwheels, and empire cookies. img_1702After the big feast on Christmas Eve, all I want to do is lay on the couch, read books, eat cookies and drink tea. That’s my idea of a perfect holiday. 😊

So from my house, and from all my creatures (including the illegal aliens), I hope you have a happy Christmas, a stack of books, a big plateful of cookies and a never empty pot of tea!! See you next year!!

Stranger in a strange land

My B&B host had directed me to phone a particular taxi company on arrival at Gatwick. Of course I ignored this advice and went to the airport taxi service. 19 pounds she said. I was sure the email had said 11. I went back and re-read the email. It said, airport taxis will cost 20 pounds–call this cab company and it will only be 11. I swear I never read that part of the email. So I did what I was told.

The drive out to Waterhall Country House was lovely. Only a few minutes away but really out in the country. There was some bad news. The chef had put his back out and there would be no supper. Worse luck, I had been convinced by British TV that there would be a homey pub within walking distance of ANYWHERE in Britain. Wrong again. No pub within several miles. Aaaaaargh. So I went for a walk down the lane to think about what to do. I thought if I walked far enough I’d find something. Ha.

So back I came. I didn’t have breakfast that morning because of nerves and the snickers bar only lasts so long. I was HUNGRY. So I relented and let the hostess make me a sandwich. What would you like she said. Ham and cheese please. Sorry we have no ham. Ok. Cheese. With chutney? Yes please. And onion too please. Could you make it a grilled cheese?

She wasn’t sure how to do that and looked slightly horrified at the thought.

Just butter the outside and toast it in a pan. I could come do it for you.

Now she looked really horrified. oh no no no I couldn’t do that. And off she scurried.

????

Whatever. I was hungry and beggars can’t be choosers. This is what I got. Hunger really is the best sauce!! It was hot and tasty. I had a second one 😊 and a beer. In front of the Christmas tree. The next morning I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the shower. Just as I was about to charge down to reception and raise a stink I remembered the B&B in Yorkshire had a switch for the hot water on demand thingy. Ok. Working now.

Breakfast calmed me down. I love English fry ups. A full plate of protein that would hold me all day. Started with a most civilized bowl of grapefruit segments. Usually there’s a bowl of prunes and grapefruit and I generally have a bowl of each but no prunes. I keep saying I will stew some up at home but never do. However I may when I get home. Absolutely delicious!! It really put me in a good mood.

Off to the British Library. I spent a couple hours immersed in really really old manuscripts–the oldest was from the 5-6th century.

I saw THE Domesday book.

Heaven.

Then I wandered thru the upper gallery and saw such marvels as the Gutenberg bible, handwritten music from Mozart to Beethoven to John Lennon. Many more medieval manuscripts–the Magna Carta. George and I saw a copy in Salisbury Cathedral 25 years ago–I think there are only three copies in existence. And so many other things. A letter from Michelangelo, notes from da Vinci, manuscripts from Dickens, the Brontes, and other writers…so many I can’t remember them all. Really fabulous. And free (except for my special exhibit). Afterwards I just wanted to sit. So I tried to use the tap for the bus but my Canadian tap card wouldn’t work. Well back to the train station for advice and some sort of bus ticket. Everyone had an opinion but this one girl, bless her, had the best advice. She sold me a five pound ticket, Good for travel on the bus all day. So I just hopped on and off buses. Climbed up to the top-they’re almost all double decker and just sat and enjoyed the view.Well, enjoyed is relative. The bus drivers were all extremely friendly and helpful–and unbelievable drivers in that horrific traffic. But the city was sooo dirty. Is there a garbage strike?? Bags and bags piled everywhere, street garbage swept into piles in corners and just rubbish on the streets. And the people!!!! How can there be so many people??? I didn’t want to get off the bus. I didn’t want to walk on the streets. I was really stunned. In Austria, if there is a piece of paper or other garbage on the street (very seldom) someone will pick it up. I’ve seen extremely well dressed Austrian ladies run over to some random piece of trash and pick it up to dispose of it. It’s like it’s a personal insult to have rubbish laying around.

Anyway I drove down Oxford Street and saw the Christmas lights. I crossed Waterloo bridge and saw the big Ferris wheel and Houses of Parliament. What I really wanted to see was Tower Bridge. I thought I had the right bus and we drove and drove and drove. No bridge. I finally got fed up and got off the catch the bus back. Once off I looked ahead and saw….Tower Bridge!!!! So I walked the few blocks to it and walked across the Thames. Fabulous. All the lights were on and it just looked great. The Tower was just visible on the south shore. So mission accomplished, I set out for home. That took an hour and a half. But the beer was good and I stopped for a pasty as the cook was still laid up. Breakfast held me all day!!

Quick note from the airport

Made it to the airport in spite of an accident on the freeway. Bid a sad farewell to my cousins. I know they don’t read my blog but I really can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me while I was visiting.

Danke danke fur alles!!💕💕💕

Made it thru security too. Got the old stink eye from the ticket agent cause my bag was so heavy. But I told him I paid for it. Good thing I got those three extra kilos. My bag weighed in at 25.8 kilos. 😜😜

Icelandair allows 10k carry on plus a second personal item. But only 23k in the hold. So I may have to transfer 3k to my carry on or face an overweight fee of $60. I think I can manage with two carry ons.

I’m not sure how many of you remember my struggle with picking up a train sandwich at the appropriate time on my rail journeys. But the struggle is real as I didn’t pick up a plane sandwich either. D’oh!!!!

So I spent my last five euros on a bubbly apple drink and a snickers bar. As I was too nervous for breakie this morning and had to cull all snackie things from my bag to make room for important things like shoes–at least I won’t pass out from hypoglycaemia.

Only two hours and a bit to Gatwick. I can eat there.

The waiting room is packed. The flight must be full. I’ll be out of service soon so later dudes.

Heading back to Vienna

The first thing I saw in Czech Republic were three pigs out in a snow covered field. They looked like wild pigs, hairy and dark, but we were by them so fast I wasn’t really sure if I was seeing things.

We spent a final few hours poking around town, and I crossed the river and walked up to the castle. I think next time I’m here in the summer we’ll return and spend a couple days here. I’d love to see the museum and inside the castle. Bye CP 👋

On the way home we stopped for lunch and to tour a huge bread bakery. The tour was in German but if I understood correctly this factory ships it’s bread all over the world. It was really quite fascinating. First off we got to make a bread roll, then while it was raising and baking we toured thru this highly mechanized assembly line factory. Then home. I swore I wouldn’t stress about packing but I did and repacked my case two times. I always stress and so far I’ve been lucky–I haven’t had to pay extra at the airport. Only a two hour flight tomorrow so I think I’ll be ok. Iceland air should be ok too. They aren’t quite so restrictive about carry on so I may be alright.

This morning we went to have a look at my cousins little lake house and the one adjacent that her daughter got. It’s really a small oasis in the center of Vienna and today was the warmest day in three weeks. We walked around the lake, peering into gardens and admiring everything. I love the green house and this bright yellow one. They just look so happy. Then over to my aunts’ apartment. My cousin repainted and moved the furniture around. It really opened up the rooms and it looks very nice–different–but nice. Then I wanted to try to reorganize my case yet again and I think I’ve got it. I’m now downtown doing a final wander, having a hot punch as it really poured rain for the last hour. I knew the sun couldn’t last. So goodby Vienna. Till the next time.

On the road again

Time for another weekend away. This time we were headed towards the small village of Purgg, where for two weekends, the village is turned into a Christmas market. A very old village, with a 900 plus year old church, in the mountains–it was beautiful!!We wandered thru the town, eating and drinking–it was just so lovely!! And choir music was playing thru a loudspeaker system, so very nice!!These are not just cloud formations, these are the mountains poking thru the mist. I’m actually quite disappointed in my pictures. They looked fine at the time but now I see they are very dark and even editing them lighter they are still dark. A herd of pigs!! I wonder if I can make these at home?? I have a vine I could use. The pretty church yard above and Krampas below. A vine carefully trimmed and trained to grow alongside the building. It will provide lots of shade in the summer.

The old church with a beautiful painting of Mary in the stable with the animals eating from the manger. My cousins. We headed afterwards towards Hallstatt but it gets dark so early–we only walked down to the town square and watched several Krampus’s chase and whip the tourists. They stopped for a breather every now and then and took off their masks–they were just young boys. But they wore big bells around their waists and scared the bejabbers out of everyone. It was fun!!

A few miles further on we had rooms in a guest house. Supper was a venison stew with red cabbage. Scrummy!!Bad Ischl was just a few kilometres away. We stopped to walk around. This was Princess Sisi’s favorite place. She used to annoy her ladies by climbing the mountains behind the palace everyday–none of them could keep up with her, she was a very physical princess. She’s been called the princess Di of her time, very fashionable and weight conscious. She used to eat very little, preferring to press the juice out of her meat and drink it rather than eating. She had a nineteen inch waist after three children and refused to have pictures taken of herself after she turned 32. She’s a very fascinating woman and quite beautiful. Bad Ischl was a very pretty spa town. Mark Twain stayed here too. These telephone booths served as a free street library. A pretty river runs through town, complete with swans. Salt was also very important here too.

Back on the road again. Heading into Czech Republic to a small town called Český Krumlov. Our hotel was right in the edge of the old town and it was just sooo nice. This is the bridge heading into town. I was so excited to be somewhere different and exotic. The rooms were huge and extremely reasonably priced. There was a Christmas market in the square and I just couldn’t wait to get out exploring. But first we stopped for a meal. I had the dill/egg soup but there were lots of mushrooms in it too–delish!! And then rabbit!!Then off we went exploring. The Christmas trees were simply decorated but so pretty. The square had a big tree and many booths. The castle on the curve of the Moldau river was amazing!!And the medieval streets had communism to thank for very few changes over the last hundred years. I have to end this post now. It’s getting too long. Suffice it to say I had a great time listening to carols in the market and poking thru all the tourist shops. Don’t worry–we stayed in town the next morning too 😊

Cold noses

Friday morning we went to the cemetery to wish my aunt a happy birthday. She would have been 95. It was a cold nasty day but we headed over to the main cemetery to poke around. Many of the well known composers are in a group by the church. They all had masses of roses–I’m not sure what the occasion was. Pop singer Falco is also buried here but in a different spot. There was a large plot adjacent that held the remains of WWII bombings. Beside them were ashes that had been returned from Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The graves of many “enemies” of the Nazi regime were also there–people who had been executed as enemies of the state for perhaps sheltering a Jewish friend, or some other form of “resistance”. They all looked so young. We were all pretty well frozen after this so we went to a nearby restaurant. Check out this awesome kacheloffen, masonry stove. Beautiful tiles on it!!Friday was fish day and the portions were generous and tasty. With potato salad. Delish!! I spent the afternoon working on packing and organizing before my cousin (by marriage) picked me up for an evening visit. I’m still quite concerned about the weight of my suitcase. Especially on the EasyJet leg as they are notoriously strict on weight. So I purchased three more kilos of weight for the princely sum of 12 BP. That brings my limit up to 26 which I think/hope will be enough.

We spent the evening at a really nice heurigen, had a fantastic meal and several glasses of very good wine. Except you see in the picture my bottle of radler, a beer/lemonade mix. I started with that before I moved onto some local red wine. We had a really great visit and moved to a second heurigen for yet another glass of wine. A slice of schmaltzbrot filled the last holes in our stomachs and we called it a night.

Cousins

So I had to google what you call the child of your cousin. Apparently they are first cousins once removed. My cousins’ children therefore are second cousins to my own children. It’s all very confusing but it is all family. And the family resemblances are remarkable. I can see my father, and his father, in all my cousins.

We had a bit of a get-together on Wednesday afternoon. My American cousins’ daughter (whom I’ve never met before) was there, and my Viennese cousin with her daughters’ family. We girls had a great visit while the boys played ball in the hallway. The old photo albums came out. We all remarked on how each generation looked like the youngsters of the previous generation.

The next morning I had breakfast with yet another cousin and tonight a visit with a cousin by marriage. Many families were split by immigration. When my father left Europe he was one of two siblings. Another of my cousins emigrated to the USA. But when we are all together it is obvious we are all one family. I try to see as many cousins as I can. My father and his sister had the closest ties. I’m afraid that now they are both gone, without some effort to maintain contact , the two sides of the family will lose each other.

After breakfast with my cousin I crossed the street to go to the ALBERTINA Museum. There was an exhibition of Monet there I wanted to see. I’m really glad I went early because the people I had to wade thru on the way out was unbelievable. There were a couple of Monet’s that I hadn’t seen before. I really liked the burst of red in this one. It just looks so cold outside and so warm inside. This second one I found myself just standing and smiling at. The reflections were just so perfect. The other galleries were much less crowded so I spent some time in those. Many artists I’ve never heard of and some styles I didn’t care for but this one grabbed me. I just loved the light and was positive this was a group of vultures in the tree. Look closer. Ghosts!!! Franz Sedlazek.

And this one, pointalism style. Paul Signac. The Pink Cloud.

And this very famous watercolour. It was so small!! Albrecht Dürer, The Hare:But then I had to escape–it was getting just crazy inside. My hat is off to the people who work anywhere there are tourists. The crush of people is unbelievable and these workers must be so patient.

Time to go home and work on some postcards. I tried to mail them after addressing them but the post office wouldn’t accept any heading to Canada because of the strike a mail backlog. The strike is over now. I may just drop them in a mailbox. They’ll get to Canada eventually.

The sun is shining today!!!

I thought it was gone. It’s been rainy and drizzly and yesterday SNOWY here in Vienna. I thought the sun was gone but it was very cold last night (so clear) and this morning I’m sitting in the sun, like a cat, just enjoying it it.

So today is Wednesday. It was a slow day Monday–I went shopping and took advantage of my 20% discount card to pick up some treasures for my daughter. In the afternoon I checked out a few more Christmas markets. It’s nice just to wander thru and look at all the stalls. I picked up supplies to make a couple litres of Bailey’s. We are having family over today so that gave it a couple days to mellow in the fridge. I was short some condensed milk so had to walk down to the grocery store to pick some up.

My cousins apartment has three full sized grocery stores within a few minutes walking distance PLUS many smaller sidewalk shops with fresh fruit and vegetables. Also many bakeries. Most if not all of the smaller shops cater mainly to the middle eastern residents of this area. I think it’s absolutely possible to live in the city without a car–no need for a four litre jug of milk if you can pick up one litter every day. This may increase the amount of time spent in grocery stores but when you think about parking, and carrying heavy groceries it makes sense to just do a little every day.

Tuesday I headed into the city to pick up some “Stille Nacht” stamps. I was sorry I hadn’t bought some in Oberndorf when I was there. They weren’t here at my cousins’ post office, just behind her apartment building, so I was really hoping they weren’t something special that could only be bought in the Oberndorf post office. But at the main PO I found some. I walked around the old town–this is really the oldest part of Vienna.

I sat for a bit in St Rupert’s church, the oldest church in Vienna. I had tickets for the Bruegel exhibit at the big art museum but thought I might see the Jewish museum beforehand. It wasn’t far but I swear my phone took me in circles. Which was ok because I got to the big clock at Schwedensplatz just at noon as the figures began to move and the organ played. But there was a big delivery truck parked adjacent and I swear he fired up his big diesel on purpose to drown out the charms of the clock as he just sat there idling.

Just around the corner was the Greek Orthodox Church, which opened to the public as I got there. Very ornate and beautiful inside and out. I was very close to the Jewish museum but I think I was running out of time as I had a timed ticket for the special exhibit at the big art museum. So I headed over only stopping for a punch and a sausage in the Christmas market. You may not know Bruegel the artist but I guarantee if you see his art you will know him. I’ve loved his work since I first saw it and I couldn’t believe there was an exhibition of almost 75% of his known work here in Vienna. These last two are from a six painting series of the seasons. This last one, Bringing Home the Herd, is now my new favourite. Many of his paintings are extremely detailed, to be displayed at eye level with many provocative details meant to spark lively discussion. He is very critical of what he considers hypocritical behaviour in the church or general population. I picked up an audio guide which is the best way to see exhibitions like this as it highlights details and information I would normally miss. I spent the afternoon in this exhibition and loved every second of it. But my poor feet did not like all the standing so I was glad to get home (after a quick trip to the grocery to pick up grapes and pretzel buns). Supper was liptauer cheese and buns in front of the tv– so good!!! Watched Braveheart dubbed into German and then to bed.