Like most of you, I’m pretty much confined to barracks for the duration of this Coronavirus outbreak. So I thought I’d dig into my archives to find you some interesting items to cheer you all up (and to give me something to do of course! 😊)
For the first in this series, I’ve gone back to January 2006 and 2008, when I visited the Chateau D’Oex Balloon Festival. As you will see below, the balloons on display are many and varied, with some incredible designs. The colours are so vibrant, especially in what was bright sunshine, I just had to take a lot of photographs.
Stay safe and healthy. And a big THANK YOU to all those who are working tirelessly to keep the rest of us alive and well.
You could never accuse the Swiss of not knowing how to throw a good party. Today was the last Sunday of the annual winter Carnival in the village, which starts every year on 6th January. (So that’s at least 7 weeks of celebration!) Today, the programme promised music and a procession of the main characters, namely the Peluches (who wear masks and sheepskins) and the Empaillés (who also wear masks and a rather large sacking ‘suit’ stuffed with straw). In addition several people attend wearing fancy dress and there’s a huge amount of confetti, either thrown, usually by the children, or cannoned out from the top of a bus… (See pic 18).
I’m pretty sure that it’s still the pantomime season in the UK. So this “Fresh” video by Kool and the Gang is a great way of celebrating this wonderful British tradition.
“Oh no it isn’t” I hear you say…
“Oh, yes it is!” I reply… 🤣😂
Oh, how I miss Berwick Kaler at the York Theatre. He was an institution.
My apologies for not publishing a ‘real’ post for a while but, like many bloggers it seems, I’ve been busy doing nothing in particular.
Anyway a few months ago now, my wife organised a trip to Iceland with her friend Kate, so I had a look for something to do while she was away. Naturally I wanted to find some warmer weather and I looked at the AIMS marathon calendar for some inspiration. To my delight I discovered that the Malta Challenge Marathon was on at the same time. It consists of 3 races over 3 days, covering a 10 miler, a 5k then a Half marathon. So I entered, arranged all my travel and set about getting fit. My training was going really well (even running while I was away in Finland and Mykonos) and I’d managed to get up to 20k in a respectable 1h 50 mins, so I figured I was ready… That is until my final training run, the Saturday before I left, and my left calf seized up yet again! (Insert a suitable curse or emoji here).
Thankfully I had another reason to go… My father spent some time in Malta after the War, as a Signalman on a minesweeper and he had mentioned enjoying some time ashore down a street which he called “The Gut”, but is actually called Strait Street in English. So when my wife and I went to Malta / Gozo a few years ago, we searched for a copy of a book by George Cini, called Strait Street. We couldn’t find an English copy anywhere, so I got in touch with George and managed to get hold of a copy to give to my dad. During my email exchanges with George, I mentioned my dad’s book and he suggested I present a copy of it, personally, to the Fondazzioni Wirt Artna (FWA), which is an organisation dedicated to preserving the history of the island. And so that was also arranged…
So, like London buses, you don’t hear anything from me for a while and now a few posts of my, sometimes very wet, time in Malta & Gozo, beginning with the Mdina…
The remainder of our holiday was spent on the Finnish mainland. After catching the ferry back from Brändö, we drove up the west coast via the beautiful, UNESCO World Heritage town of Rauma and then on to Yyteri beach, which is one of the longest sandy beaches in Scandinavia at around 6km. From there we turned east to our base for the next 4 nights, which was a self-catering wooden lodge, or chalet, next to Lake Vesijako.
We returned to spend 2 more nights in the delightful city of Turku, which is the oldest town in Finland, with stops en route at the towns of Lammi and Hämeenlinna
Some other things I learnt during this trip (which you might also like to know):
- As well as having thousands of islands, there are 100’s if not also thousands of lakes in Finland as well (and the Finns take great advantage of these by having weekend lodges close by).
- There are a huge number and variety of mushrooms and toadstools in the woods. (During one walk, I met a man and his wife foraging. They had collected at least one big bucket load of one particular type).
- The woods are not all conifers as I imagined they might be. There appears to be an equal number of deciduous trees as well.
- The people are extremely welcoming and friendly.
- The Finnish language seems to specialise in very long words, which often include double A’s, E’s, I’s, K’s, M’s, N’s or U’s. The longest word I encountered, which I don’t think is exceptional, was 25 letters long.
- I don’t know the significance, but many (most?) street or track names end in ‘antie’, ‘entie’, ‘ontie’ or ‘untie’.
- The peak summer holiday season is from mid-June to mid-August and, before and after that period, you may find some things are not running or closed. (Though the ferries appear to run all year round – when it’s not completely iced over of course!)
- In the depths of winter, when conditions allow, it’s possible to drive over the ice to some islands. (No doubt special tyres and a brave or trusting nature are required for this).
- Last, but by no means least, the beer in Finland (and Stockholm) is pretty good. They certainly know how to make a tasty IPA. 😊 Cheers! 🍻
I promised USAthroughoureyes that I would try to find a new dimension to my walks and so today we have something unusual – a flat(ish) walk in Switzerland. I have mentioned and posted pictures of ‘Bisses’ before. They are irrigation channels and there are quite a number dotted about the canton of Valais. But I think this one must be the most famous, due to the precipitous nature of the path, or at least the original path. Today, four suspension bridges help the inquisitive walker along the route, but you can still see how the bisse and path were originally built.
All of the images below were taken with my mobile phone (as I went off without my camera) and I just managed to catch the ‘thing’ in the last picture (which was a first sighting for me), before my battery ran out. I spotted it while looking to take a photo of some butterflies, but it makes a change… 😊 I also saw what may have been 3 Jersey Tiger moths (another first) but, by then, I had no battery left… 😌
Every year, on the 15th August, our village is host to one of the most traditional and colourful festivals. Every other year, it is supplemented by the inclusion of the musicians and dancers from the Célébrations Interculturelles de la Montagne à Evolène (CIME), which takes place in the few days leading up to this and concludes with a final Gala evening performance.
The main event starts with a procession of vintage cars. This is followed by people dressed in traditional costumes, demonstrating local dancing, music and crafts. This year it was interspersed with performers from Russia, Armenia, Ecuador, Italy and Montenegro.
As you can see from the photos below (the best ones of which were taken by my wife Jude, as marked), everyone had a fabulous time. And if you ever wondered where this utopia is that I live, but couldn’t be bothered to look it up, I’ve added a map at the end. 😊
This weekend and until the 15th August, sees the biennial CIME (Célébrations Interculturelles de la Montagne à Evolène) festival, which features dancers and singers from different mountain areas around the world. We haven’t bought tickets to see any of the evening shows, but there are impromptu events happening in and around the villages of the Val d’Hérens.
So, with nothing better to do and the sun shining, I wandered down to the village, taking some photos as I went, and stumbled across a procession of the Russian, Italian and Ecuadorian participants. I presumed this was a sort of preamble or practice for the main ‘mid-summer’ procession on the 15th. I hope to bring you some pictures of that later next week, but in the meantime, here are a few images from today.
Psst… Can you keep a secret? If anyone asks, you haven’t seen these pictures – OK?
Jude and I went to the Irish Festival in Sion last night, featuring 3 bands, with the Chieftains as the main act. The cloakrooms were outside of the entrance gate, so after the first act and a few pints of the black stuff, I toddled off for a comfort break. But when I returned, I’d taken my point and shoot camera out of my pocket and the security guard wouldn’t let me in – pointing to a sign saying “No cameras”. (It was in Jude’s bag when we first arrived and a different security guard must have missed it). With almost everyone else inside taking pictures or videos with their phones, this seemed a bit ridiculous, but you don’t argue with a 6ft+ security guard! (Well, I don’t anyway).
So I obviously didn’t take these pictures of the Damien Mullane Band and I certainly couldn’t possibly have taken any of the Chieftains. Though I can tell you they were as good as ever, ably assisted by a local Swiss drumming band and 2 superb Canadian dancers on some of their songs.
This week contains Swiss National Day*, so I’ve decided to include a song by a Swiss group, called Double, though in reality it’s mainly a guy called Kurt Maloo. I really like it for a number of reasons, like the haunting melody, the simple piano riff, the clarinet and, when the question was asked “Who sang The Captain of her Heart?” in a pub quiz in York quite a few years ago now, I actually remembered the answer. I still have no idea how I got that.
*The 1st August is also Yorkshire Day. Ey up, didn’t tha knows? But I figured this song might go down a bit better than a rendition of Ilkley Moor Bah T’at (especially be me!) Oh, go on then, yev twisted me arm – see darn below… 👍👍 It’s grand as ‘owt!