Friday thought #82 Ski time!

Yes it’s here, I clung on to autumn for as long as I could, but I have finally given in and embraced winter! Although at this time of year the nights are closing in, the temperature plummets, and the sun retreats into hibernation, the wonderful thing about a place like Innsbruck is that with winter comes SNOW! Last weekend we dusted off the skis and had a fun blast round the busy pistes followed by a superb (and considerably quieter!) ski tour.

A great star to the winter and exciting to be back on the skis. Watch this space…

Stunning views above the clouds

Stunning views above the clouds

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The snow was surprisingly good!

Peaceful touring

Peaceful touring

Atmospheric snowy peaks as far as the eye can see

Atmospheric snowy peaks as far as the eye can see

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Friday thought #81 Who said November was miserable?

Me! Traditionally I have always associated November with grim, rainy, grey weather (growing up in England didn’t help!) The sun has gone into hibernation, the rain arrives, it’s cold. But this November in the alps has proved me wrong. With a few exceptions (!) we have had perfect cold, crisp sunny days, and the beautiful autumn leaves have really held their colour. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed still being able to run on the forest trails around Innsbruck, and couldn’t resist taking my camera out this week to capture nature at its best.

The snow is creeping closer, and skiing is not far away, but for now I want to hold on to autumn for as long as possible.

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Friday thought #80 Beautiful Autumn

Despite Autumn faithfully and predictably arriving every year at the same time, it still never ceases to surprise me how beautiful it is, possibly because each year it seems to sneak up and blow you away with its seemingly impossible colours. The summer months are always wonderful, and living in a place which has the 4 distinct seasons makes the transition from hot, carefree summer days to dark, short winter days so much more bearable by easing us in to it slowly.  Now I must admit a winter with snow and skiing is a great deal more tempting than a rainy, grey one, but it’s still always a challenge to let go of the summer regardless of what’s around the corner!

Every year I cherish the Autumn and make sure I stop to appreciate just how unique and stunning it is, even on a grey day…!

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Friday thought #79 Via Ferrata Lake Garda

In Italian ‘via ferrata’ simply means ‘iron way’, and that is exactly what it is; a series of metal cables, staples and ladders enabling people to climb and traverse otherwise impenetrable rock faces. Via ferrata was created in the Italian Dolomites during the First World War as a means to move the soldiers through the mountain environment, but it wasn’t until many many years later that it became a popular sport. There are now hundreds of routes across Europe, and although they are not for the faint-hearted or those who suffer from vertigo (!) they do make climbing much more accessible for aspiring adventurers with little experience or skill.

During a recent trip to Lake Garda in Italy, we headed for the Sentiero Contrabbandieri, an old smugglers’ route high above the shores of the lake. It turned out to be more of an adventurous, and rather terrifying walk with a few sections of cable, rather than a classic via ferrata, but it was brilliant fun, and with stunning views to top it off.

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Friday thought #78 An alternative summer break – sea kayaking in Sardinia

It has been another fantastic summer of adventures, discovery, exploration and visiting new places. A few years back we sea kayaked in Croatia and loved it so much that we just had to do it again. This time Sardinia was the chosen destination; the La Maddalena archipelago off the NE coast to be specific. We had never been before and only heard wonderful things about it. Suffice it to say that it fully lived up to all of our expectations; a real adventure, an incredible place and most importantly, quality time away from work, phones, internet and other people! These days it is so hard to switch off from everyday life and I cannot recommend sea kayaking enough as a complete break from it all.

Of course no trip is without its unexpected events… Wild waves one day left us stranded on an uninhabited island and we ended up having to use our paddles to flag down a passing yacht to hitch a ride back to the mainland…! All part of the adventure, and thank you to the French crew on ‘Le Fleur de Sel’ if you ever read this!

Seven days of paddling, snorkelling, wild camping, sunset watching and generally just being on holiday, it doesn’t take much imagination to plan an interesting alternative to the average summer break.

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Friday thought #77 Cows with attitude!

You will often come across animals when out and about in the mountains; mostly cows, goats, sheep, or the occasional marmot. They are always nice to see, I like sharing my mountains with animals, but in general I wouldn’t normally describe any of them as having a great deal of character, and I’ve certainly never seen one pose for the camera! However on a recent mountaineering trip we came across most definitely the coolest, most characterful cow I have ever seen, almost a cow with attitude!

She was in the middle of the hiking trail, and stood her ground as we approached, then as soon as the camera was on her, she tilted her chin upwards, looked nonchalantly in to the distance and struck a pose, no two ways about it. Judge for yourself, she was just marvellous!

What a poser!

What a poser!

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Friday thought #76 English grammar rant…!

I love languages, they are endlessly interesting, and I am always comparing and questioning different aspects of language. In particular I love the English language. This probably has a lot to do with it being my first language, and also the fact that I spend a lot of my time teaching English to foreign students… ! But even so, I think it’s a fascinating language; so complex, so expressive, and much of it with seemingly no rules at all!

Teaching advanced English has been a very interesting experience for me as it has really made me stop and ponder questions that as a native speaker I would never even consider. It also makes you realise just how many mistakes we make as native speakers, mistakes which have, over the course of time, become acceptable. With the enormous rise in popularity of blogs, I find myself seeing more and more mistakes, and not just typos – we are all guilty of occasionally typing too quickly and not having time to proofread – but serious grammatical errors that are clearly not thought of as incorrect by the writer. Why is it now ok to say “there’s lots of people?” Spoken slang is one thing, but I can’t tolerate poorly written English. Another of my favourites is “I should of gone home earlier”. We all went to school and learnt how to read, write and speak. No wonder so many foreign speakers find English so difficult to learn.

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And don’t even get me started on apostrophes. Why do so many people think if a word ends in ’s’, it must need an apostrophe?

“Sofa’s for sale”

“Fresh drink’s available”

“Live sport’s shown here”

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The list is literally never-ending; outside bars, restaurants, even at universities. True story, I once saw this sign at a British university:

“Student’s Union”

Just for the one student then?

Apostrophes have very simple rules, we all learnt them at school, yet it seems most people have completely forgotten them by the time they reach adulthood.

I would never claim to always use flawless spoken or written grammar, far from it, but I think laziness, far too much time spent typing on phones, and the rise of slang is starting to destroy our language. And what a beautiful language it is, I hate the thought of it slipping away. If grammar is not your strong point, no problem, but just ask someone to check it before you publish it!

Then there are occasionally grammar points which present themselves and become the subject of debate, such as the following safety precaution commonly found on the back of headrests on aeroplanes. Is one right and one wrong, or are they both acceptable? And if they’re both ok, why?!

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It’s a wonderful language, but it could be made a whole lot easier if there was just one word for something, rather than 10, and if each word just meant one thing, not 10…!

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