Swiss Survival Guide Part 2: Don’t make a Noise

The Swiss might make their apartments of concrete with tile floors in all staircases, corridors and communal areas but this isn’t because the Swiss love to hear the sound of children’s singing/fighting/wailing echoed and amplified throughout their apartment blocks.

No it is not.

In Switzerland please be quiet. Not just on the stairs and communal areas, but please take care not to run out a bath after 9pm. It’s OK to run the bath, so long as you wait until after 8am to run out the water – God forbid that you run a dishwasher at night, and I am still unclear as to whether one can flush a loo in the evenings. I think once or twice is acceptable, just don’t go OTT. And hoovering is a complete no-no.

You won’t have to worry about the washing machine though. There will be a communal washing machine for all flats in the block in the basement which you will forget to book the necessary week in advance and so you will be washing your smalls in the bath. Just make sure that you don’t take the plug out after 9pm.

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Messing about in kayaks

kayaking“There is NOTHING… absolutely nothing… half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Thus spake Ratty in the wonderful first chapter of Wind in the Willows. And I can now confirm his assertion to be true, having spent a blissful morning drifting around the sea near Arisaig in a sea kayak. The sea was green, the sky was blue (in parts) and the islands of Eigg and Rum, and the Black Cullin of Skye made a heart-lifting backdrop.

My experience of messing about in boats has, save some punting while at university and the pedalos on lake Luzern, been almost entirely vicarious. My first experiences of boating were with Ratty on the river (picnic essential) and with Titty

Continue reading

Making playing wild in nature natural

kids on beach 2Lately there seems to be more awareness of the need for children to have freedom, especially to play in nature, and the growing disconnect between children and nature. There was the Natural Childhood Report, and I’ve come across loads of articles, policy papers and the odd book aimed at showing the malaises that result from this generation’s separation from their environment.

I don’t need articles in colour supplements and reports by consortia of NGOs to have angst about my kids getting out to play – I already have it in spades.

Today I am fretting over a magazine article in the Guardian. Continue reading

Home for Christmas

A few days before Christmas a parcel arrived. It contained a soft-toy. That’s not unusual in any way, it was one of millions sent and received, but this one was very special to my younger daughter. It was a long-lost and long-loved tiger called Stanley, and he was coming home after being separated from his owner for a long time.

I had totally forgotten about Stanley’s existence but an email the previous week had jogged my memory.  A friend from my workplace-before-last forwarded it to me.  It was from someone working at the headquarters of Scottish Natural Heritage and they had received a tiger and a couple of letters, one addressed to the owner of the tiger, and one asking that ‘to whom it may concern’ would endeavour to seek out the tiger’s owner.  The note said that the tiger had been found during an attic clear-out and that it had belonged to a small child who had popped by with her parents while visiting a bothy they co-owned near Cuil Bay a few years ago.  One of her parents worked for SNH, but that is all she knew.  The correspondent wanted the tiger to be back home with its little girl for Christmas.

I responded to the email immediately knowing that it must be us, but not remembering the soft toy in question. The subsequent photo confirmed his identity and Stanley was wrapped tightly in bubble-wrap, boxed up and sent home to be reunited with a delighted seven-year-old a few days before Christmas.

It’s interesting to think how many toys my daughter has had since Stanley, each Christmas seems an orgy of consumption and acquisitiveness, but some toys are just special. And Stanley was never a shiny new Christmas tiger in a shiny box, Stanley was a hand-me-down from a friend.  Thank you for stanleysending him home.