Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Putting your bicycle to work

We are all aware of how great cycling for leisure is but for a long time now I have been using my bicycle not only as personal transport but as a tool to transport possessions and even shopping. This idea of the bicycle as a "pack horse" not just a "show pony" has been around for years, especially in eastern countries where a single bicycle carries the whole family and pets. Once I even managed to pack enough for a 2 month cycling and camping holidays on the back of my bike.

Here I also regularly take advantage of my bikes ability to carry large loads and thanks to my handy Clip on bike bag(see pic), two bungee cords which I permanently keep in a little saddle bag and my new basket which clips into the carrier I am able to easily able to transport many items at a moments notice.

Recently though I put my bike though another more taxing test by actually towing my flat mate (KK) and her bike home.
On a typical Wednesday after a few calm drinks we were both on our way home when  KK's bike chain slips off, this was not too much of a shock as it had been acting up a lot recently. However what was more annoying in this case was that the chain had some how managed to get properly wedged into the gear mechanism and it was going to require at least a screw driver to slove the problem.

However being determined to get the bicycle home to fix the problem I used my handy bunjee cords and simply clipped them on to her front basket to my carrier and started pedalling, much to the disbelief of KK.

The result was actually pretty good. Granted I was now pedaling for two people but apart from being a somewhat slower it was not an exhausting experience. The only slight problem was that since the cords were elastic they would not pull steadily but rather the sensation of pulling in waves. Retrospectivly though this probably helped the smoothness of the ride rather than it being jerky.

So if you are thinking of starting to cycle regularly I would recommend getting a bicycle that is practical for day to day life rather than just that you just use once every two weeks on a road or mountain. Hopefully the result should be that you use it far more often and are generally fitter.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Mile stones in life

A friend sent me this after reading this post

As I rapidly approach my 27th birthday I start to look back on the year it has been. For those of you who are not aware 26 was actually a pretty big milestone in my life. Not it the same traditional way that 18 and 21 are, as these birthdays seem to necessitate some kind of large celebration where all your friends and family recognise the apparent significance of your transformation from a teen to an adult.

However the transition from 25 to 26 also carries this same significance but in a more stealthy form, when you turn 26 there are no bigger than normal parties only bigger costs. Yes indeed 26 is recognised in Europe as the age that you no longer are a "youth", no longer are museums free or cheaper and train tickets are full price.
These subtle charges don't celebrate your age but rather seem to imply that you should have got your life together at this stage and should be able to pay full price for things as you should be working in a properly paid job at this age of your life, and worst of all without a big party.

So while I firmly grip on to the tattered rags of my youth I have started to reflect back on this year while considering this transformation from "youth" to full paying adult.
Indeed many things have changed and this has been a great fun filled year with many joys and hurdles. Approaching the ripe old age of 27 does not come without its negative connotations though, at this stage of my life I was hoping to have my life more "together" not by a lot but I was hoping to at least be at the stage where I could afford to live a more comfortable and stable life.

A popular saying says "youth is wasted on the young", looking back however I am quite satisfied. While sometimes I lament my apparent lack of stereotypical achievements that society demands we reach (for example I have some friends with houses (large mortgages), children, cars and a well paid jobs) and other times I celebrate this fact. I have had many great experiences in many different countries and met many amazing people who I am proud to consider my friends.

I am looking forward to what 27 has to bring.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Spring: a time of change

A beautiful tree in blossom near work

At last the cold miserable weather has departed and longer, sunnier days are literally on the horizon. I personally believe that "spring is a time of change" and in springs true typical fashion things have certainly changed for me. After my previous post about the miseries of job hunting it seems that my luck has changed and I have currently got a job for the next two months.

Otherwise what to report on the cycling front.....? well part of my ongoing struggle to love Zurich as much as I love Paris and Dublin is dealing with the hills. Hills and mountains; Switzerland is famous for those Heidi-esque Alps but if I'm not busy admiring the views I'm usually busy working up a sweat climbing a hill in Zurich to some small godforsaken little area where the rents are cheap and the inhabitants are fellow forigners.

Another down side to my route to work is that I don't seem to be able to figure out a "safe" and short way to get there. The bus lanes here are good but very sporadic and on the way to work I often feel like I'm about to go onto a motor way and therefore cycle a lot on the footpath, which is a thing I hate doing, as that is how I previously broke my arm. But paths seem to be the fastest way and after the misery of the up hill cycle to Milchbuch I tend to take the most direct route as I feel I deserve it.
The small incline up O'Connell street now seems like down hill free wheeling.

Also a point to mention is that it has been officially over a year since I have had this blog, as my first post (which no body read, as it was terrible) was on the 22nd of March. Originally inspired by a former colleague to start keeping one as a writing portfolio I have certainly been enjoying the regular creativity and satisfaction that writing brings, and I have even gathered my journalistic escapades on my new portfolio website.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Paris Memories

While I do get nostalgic for Paris on a regular basis, a friend recently reminded me about the first time I lived and worked in Paris in 2007-2008. This was on my year out, and while I did not cycle, I did work in a bar.
Times were good and nights were long and blurry. These were the days when I first fell in love with Paris and I really started to improve my French.
I even managed to got to see the France v Ireland rugby game in Stade de France which was awesome, even though we lost.

Sorry this post is short, but I'll be writing more inane ramblings about cycling soon.

Featured in the video are Bláthmac, Brian and Minty, as well as me of course.

High fives to Minty for putting it together.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Job Hunting

As my holiday progressively deteriorates into long term unemployment I thought I would post this quick photo post to explain my situation in a more humorous light

The term trailing spouse(or in my case GF) may not be familiar to most of you but it usually refers to a significant other who follows their loved one to their current location.
So while the job Architecture job situation here in Zurich is actually pretty good(a friend of mine practically got offered a job with out sending 1 single portfolio-he spoke the local language and studied here though) there are some things you should keep in mind before heading over.
These are the things I have struggled with on the job hunt.

  • German speakers will get preference(not nessisarily Germans though)
  • They generally use ArchiCAD
  • Mac's are very popular here
  • Internships are generally reserved for people on their year out as you get paid per completed semester.
  • Everyone and their granny speaks really good English so it's not that much of a "plus" here.

I'm sure I could write an epic paragraph or two to try and justify why I'm still jobless, but for now I think this will do. Also I might use this time for actually sending applications.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Cheap Restaurants I love in Paris

Continuing on from the theme of places to recommend friends I'm going to do one on food, these are more varied in their location, but I still recommend every one is worth a visit.

While not all of them are classic French Bistros it's Paris and there is one of these on every corner; I'm sure you will have no problem finding them. This however is a list of my favourite places to bring friends when they visit. Good places at good prices, and not all French.

Also worth a special mention are all the people who first brought me to these places. You are far too numerous and awesome to list. Sophie, Katie, Emma, Tom, my Dad and..... Hmm I guess not that numerous actually. Maybe just your awesomeness is too awesome to list. But hey, you have good taste and like eating out.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Cheap Bars and Clubs in Paris

So recently a few friends of mine have been passing through Paris, and as I am now hibernating in Zurich I have decided to provide a few helpful tips for people who want to go there on the cheap.

Since I don't feel like writing a long email every time some ones looking for tips I would far prefer to just send them a link and be done with it. No offence, just this allows me to build and improve the list rather than trying to remember in each email (as well as shameless self promotion of my blog of course).

These tips are based on my experience of Paris and as I'm sure you will notice there is an underlying preference for the Chatlet area as well as an anglophone trend. Why you ask, well apart from central location, good atmosphere and cheap beers, I used work in the area and still know people working at the majority of these bars. Hi folks if you're reading.

This is my no nonsense guide:

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Frozen Fountains of Zurich

In case you are unaware, things have have been very cold here; not just better put on a pair of gloves cold, but toes falling off ears stinging cold and that is with every possible bodily surface covered at least twice (well bar my eyes as I still need to see). Things are starting to thaw out though.
But just to prove this point I've decided to do a little photo post of some frozen fountains.
Fountain 1 at the Hauptbahnhof- frozen solid

Fountain 1, the water seemed to have literally stopped mid flow

Fountain 2, still running but the frozen splash had made a bell shape

Fountain 2 "bell" close up
Fountain 3, like a macaron of solid ice

Fountain 3; I tried smashing it with my elbow. No luck
Fountain 4, frozen solid and smashed before I could do it

Fountain 4, smashed close up
Fountain 5, solid with no water flowing
Fountain 6, interesting sculpture with interesting ice

You may have been thinking that many of my recent posts are weather related, well you are right. Well you know what I don't really care because when the temperatures drop into the minus double digits I currently sympathise with Badgers and hedgehogs and have gone into hibernation!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Languages and Emigration

Pouletbrustgeschnetzeltes = Diced chicken breast

It's not often I post about very personal topics, but I have been giving this a lot more thought recently.

As a not so recent immigrant in Paris I had the benefit of speaking the language, and not just speaking but being able to make jokes and just feel within my comfort zone. However now the situation is reversed and the very comfortable French shoe is now on the other German foot.
These language skills however did not the result of diligent hard work in school, but rather a diverse family background.

Struggling with languages is something most people will go through in their life, the brave will stick it out and struggle though different tenses, vocab and genders in an attempt to integrate, the weak however will only give a basic holiday attempt at other languages for ordering beer, before reverting back to the traditional Anglophone approach of just repeating the English version of the word louder  until something happens.

However as the mass exodus of Ireland continues it becomes more and more clear that having a second European language is possibly the greatest asset that you could hope for. The appeal of a second language is however completely over looked by the school system and more importantly the students them selves who often don't make a genuine effort to learn. Well let me assure you; paying a minimum of 500€ a month for the classes you got for free in school is indeed a shocking learning incentive.

As the job situation in London hits saturation point what will become of the immigrant who refuse to leave their comfort zone of the English language? Already horror stories are coming to the fore of former school mates working in America on long expired holiday visas who are trapped; unable to return for Christmas, birthdays or funerals.

Long gone are the days where Irish people could simply think that "I'm sure someone will speak English", as we now live in a society where minimum of 3 international languages is the norm, and these people are also applying for the same jobs as you.

Recently I have started using the Rosetta Stone language learning programme which is supplementing 1 months intensive German classes at a school. To what avail? Well the hope is that by seriously investing in the language I will make myself a more appealing candidate to potential employers.

The main downside of learning German in Switzerland though is that no one here really speaks "high" German, opting instead for the local dialect of Swiss German. This  frustratingly means that you never hear any of the words or phrases you learn and even when you speak German you will be speaking a "foreign" language.

For those of you who arrive to a Country and can't speak the local language I would encourage taking classes as soon as you arrive. Not only does it help improve your confidence but it also gives you a new group of new people, who are usually also new to the country and eager to make friends.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Woeful Winter Weather

Ahh yes the complete 180, I certainly am feeling like God must  have read my previous post and sent freezing cold temperatures to spite me.

So after just reporting the lovely weather I had been enjoying, now it is very much different.
The freezing snow has arrived, and en force.

While I do still suffer slightly from the "aww cool snow" aspect of coming from a country with only rain, these pictures clearly demonstrate the difference between perceived winter cycling and the actual experience
a snowy winter wonderland (photo without flash)
snow being whipped into your face while you try and find the route with the least dangerous snow coating

 White hell (with flash)


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