Seattle Trip

I recently returned from a trip to Redmond (Seattle) home of Microsoft. the business part of the trip was ok, as they go. A little frustrating in places, a bit of a giggle in others and tiring all the way through. That coupled with a complete nightmare scenario with my bank freezing my accounts (‘there has been a fraudulent attempt to withdraw cash in Seattle’…) and I was ready for a weekend with some dear friends in Seattle.

Ballard was wonderful. Sunshine, smiling faces, wonderful news, and the new family member L. meant the weekend got off to a great start. I don’t get to see friends often enough – and certainly not the faraway friends. Work gets in the way. And for a while many other things have gotten in the way. But, two days with the W. family in Seattle showed that across the miles friendships survive.

I got to spend time with little L. – who is just adorable. And to listen to stories, chat, and just mull over life while enjoying the sun, great food, wine and being in relaxed company. I didn’t want to do the tourist thing, I just wanted to be there and be part of their lives – rather than doing ‘something special for my visit’. And it was wonderful (even if we were all a bit taken aback when Besalu was closed).

I have two regrets about the trip though. One, it wasn’t a long enough visit with my friends. Two, that I wasn’t able to share it with my BF. Oh, ok, three regrets – that it’s been so long since my last visit.

So, returning to the UK, jet lag in tact – I have to find a way to catch up, visit, see, meet friends more than I currently do. It’s a big thing. A big ask. But, I have to find a way.

In the meantime, I look forward to hearing about D., L. and G. and their adventures with a ‘new house’ and other stories 😉 Skype video calls may have to suffice to make sure that little L. doesn’t forget what I look like until I can get back to Seattle again.

Reading Materials

I currently commute in excess of 10 hours a week. This means that I have very little ‘me’ time or more specifically, reading time. I’ve been a big reader for years. I’ll read anything as long as it’s nothing to do with politics. Classics, chick-lit, trashy airplane fodder – not relevant. But, now I’m commuting I miss my books. So, iTunes and audiobooks to the rescue. I’ve recently downloaded many and am enjoying ‘listening’ to my books instead.

A couple of weeks ago we watched a couple of ‘Nazi era’ movies. The first ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ was outstanding. The story of a small boy, his innocence and naivety in the face of hatred and the Nazis. What a film. What a story line. What an ending. It left me completely speechless. Silent. Moved. Disturbed. Emotional. 5/5

The other ‘Defiance’ – about the courage and determination of the Bielskis. Again, the subject matter is thought-provoking, disturbing, highly emotive and engaging in a way that you really have to experience for yourself. 5/5

I studied German literature at uni – and part of my degree course featured pre-war and post-war literature. So, seeing a couple of movies about that era got me thinking. I downloaded ‘The Reader’ (original German title der Vorleser) by Bernhard Schlink. What a fantastic book. I really want to see the film. It was more disturbing than the other two films because of the way it makes you feel about Frau Schmitz. You loathe, like, hate, and in the end pity her. It made me think about the war – the second world war and what people went through. It made me think about my granddad. It made me think about my step kids. And it made me think about kids today and their lack of understanding for what happened.

I grew up listening to stories from my granddad. He was a Corporal in the Irish Guards during the war. He took part in the Anzio landings and was captured by the Italians (after a massacre on the beaches at Anzio). The Italians handed over the survivors – to the Germans. My granddad spent the last years and months of the war in Stalag 4b. While the conditions there were not even remotely comparable to the conditions experienced by the Jewish people, they were bad enough. 

I remember hearing about his liberation or rather the liberation of Stalag 4b by the Cossacks. He spoke fondly of the soldiers that came to rescue them. He spoke of their unrelenting brutality towards the camp guards. He told stories about incidents that as a child I couldn’t imagine. But, as I grew older and became aware of the ‘truth’ and all that it meant. 

With the information age comes a huge opportunity for me to research and find out more about the Anzio landings – and even to trace some of the people who were in Stalag 4b with my grand father. Unfortunately, granddad died more than 20 years ago so I can’t share any of this with him. Nor to I have children to pass on my knowledge to. But, I have a burning need to tell the stories. To pass them on. I also want to make sure that other people don’t forget what happened. Whether it’s what happened in Stalag 4b, or whether it’s Dachau.

New ISP & Options

I have to apologise for the shoddy language of my last entry. It was written on my iPod Touch – while ‘borrowing’ someone’s internet access…as mine is down.

I have looked into whether I can change ISP. Yay, I’m out of contract period with Orange. I called this morning to check the situation and I found calling the customer retention team works a lot better than trying to get through the script and the language barrier with the Indian call centre. I even told the guy on the phone this morning that the reason I’m thinking of leaving was because I can’t afford to spend an hour to two hours of my time on the phone working through a script whenever there’s a problem. And, that I was left with no Internet (correction, I still have no Internet access) for several days.

He was most helpful. He checked the line and from my account saw the ‘fault’ had been fixed. I told him it hadn’t been fixed. He registered another service call. And, he’s sending me out a freebie router to replace the LiveBox. 

But there are options. Sky, Talk Talk and PlusNet have all been recommended as possible alternatives. BT was a ‘no-no’ according to my impromptu poll…

We shall see what happens. For sure there’s no Twitter & no Facebook at the moment. What’s worse, my music won’t play throughout the house…only where I have a dock for the iPod.