Friday thought #62 The winter environment

It seems winter really isn’t coming to the Alps this year. As I write, the temperature outside is 16 degrees C, in February… This is by far the worst winter for snow I can ever remember, but we’re still managing to make the most of it and get out skiing whenever we have even just a dusting of fresh snow!

Last week we managed to get a few powder turns at Patscherkofel, just outside of Innsbruck. It was shallow, but still fun, and with a bright blue sky, stunning snowy tree formations and yet another new place to explore, I can’t complain!

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Friday thought #60 Winter has begun!

It’s been a long time coming, but FINALLY the snow has arrived and winter can really get going! It’s fallen slowly so still far from full coverage, but it’s wonderful to be back out on the snow, and we even got some amazing powder today!

Here are some shots from the past couple of weeks in Innsbruck.

Stubai Gletcher, cold but very beautiful!
Stubai Gletcher, cold but very beautiful!
Early morning at Stubai, it feels unpleasant but it's always worth it when you're the first people there!
Early morning at Stubai, it feels unpleasant but it’s always worth it when you’re the first people there!
Arty mountains at Stubai
Arty mountains at Stubai
Midway up the first proper tour of the season
Midway up the first proper tour of the season, not a bad backdrop…
And always worth it for those powder turns on the way down!
And always worth it for those powder turns on the way down!
Stunning views on a powder day in Khutai
Stunning views on a powder day in Khutai

Friday thought #59 Proud to be English!

I recently heard a song by English folk bank The Shires, called ‘Made in England‘ and it reignited my love of the funny little island tagged on to Northern Europe. It sings the praises of England’s grey skies and the fact that when you step off the plane it will probably be raining… but the chorus happily declares:

Cause I’m made in England
And I’m proud to be
From this little island
It’s more than home to me
Yes, I’m made in England
Nowhere I’d rather be
Rainy days and milk in my tea
Is good enough for me

 We’re all a little guilty of berating our homeland from time to time and looking with desperate envy at the amazing places other people had the chance to grow up, but the older I get, the more proud I am of being English. Yes I could have grown up on a beach, or skiing in the mountains, or somewhere hot, or exotic, and if that’d been the case I’d probably be a completely different person speaking a different language now and I’m sure would have taken a very different path through life. In short, where we’re from shapes who we are.

What other nation could know and love lyrics like:

I only want a beer
If it’s poured in a pint

The taste of vinegar and salt on my lips, oh yeah
There’s nothing like a Friday night fish and chips
Sitting out, there in a coat, on a cold pebble beach

The grass will always be greener and human nature means we will never be truly satisfied with what we have, but we should always take the time to appreciate where we grew up and the memories we can take from it. From the mindless tv shows and pop songs we remember as kids, to the quirks and oddities of the people, and from the ridiculous eating habits that no other culture will ever understand to the weather we always complain about, it’s who you are.

I do give it some stick sometimes, and I don’t live there now (there are no skiable mountains and very little snow…!) but I’d never choose to have grown up anywhere else. Good old England!

Ah the beautiful English countryside...
Ah the beautiful English countryside…

Friday thought #52 From Autumn to Winter in a matter of days…

Innsbruck is a wonderful place. Where else in the world do you have stunning mountains and all the nature you could wish for, within spitting distance of a city with all the amenities a person could ever need?

The seasons are changing fast here, the bright orange and yellows are out in force and the colder weather is creeping in, which means Winter is coming…! But not quite yet. Last week we managed both a via ferratta (climbing rock faces using fixed metal railings) and a ski tour within a couple of days. Perfect!

Heading up the wall
Heading up the wall
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In the cave halfway up, with Kematen, one of Innsbruck’s neighbouring villages below
Quite an impressive wall!
Quite an impressive wall!
No-one around, bliss!
No-one around, bliss!
Stunning ice formations at the top
Stunning ice formations at the top
A well beaten path and spectacular scenery
A well beaten path and spectacular scenery
Powder in October??! Who'd have thought?!
Powder in October??! Who’d have thought?!

Friday thought #13 Is not wearing make up really an act of charity?

Where did make-up come from? And why has it completely taken over the lives of so many women? It’s something I’ve been pondering lately, due to a number of factors.

Firstly, it would take a lot of persuasion to get me in to a large department store, especially in the lead up to Christmas, because quite frankly, they terrify me! However, having been kindly given some vouchers to spend in one such store in Geneva, I reluctantly popped in to the city en route to the airport this week to do some spending!

Now walking in to the first of the 6 gigantic floors, I immediately felt myself getting far too hot and flustered, as generally happens in places like this! The lights are too bright, there are too many people and there are far too many chinadoll-like women asking me if I would like some help! But aside from my personal fear of department stores, what really struck me was the amount of emphasis there was on make-up and glamour. There was a whole floor dedicated to make-up! And I would hazard that there were in fact more staff busying around than there were customers to serve. It was reasonably early in the morning, perhaps before many glamour seekers chose to surface… But I was genuinely shocked by the amount of slap on the faces of these women who were supposedly there to help me tailor my look and create a more beautiful me. At what point did we become obsessed with covering up our natural faces and creating a completely fake identity?

But what really brought this home for me recently is the latest Children in Need campaign, encouraging women to go ‘bear faced for charity’. Now of course Children in Need is a fantastic cause and they if they believe they can raise enormous amounts of money through persuading people to avoid make-up for a photograph, then by all means cash in. But what bothers me is that it just seems like a dreadful reflection on our society that one of the absolute worst things a woman could possibly imagine doing is being seen in public, or even worse, being photographed, without any make-up on.

I feel like I need a quick reminder of just some of the many challenges that have been done for charitable causes over the years, be it for widely publicised causes like Children in Need and Comic Relief, or smaller, more personal charities.

Swimming the English Channel

43 marathons in 52 days

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Walking 108km across a Kenyan desert

These challenges have pushed people to the limit, tested their physical and mental strength and have left them with an enormous sense of achievement. Does being forced to not wear any make-up have the same effect? Are they really in the same category? Unfortunately I am being led to believe that the answer is yes, which to me is a truly horrifying reflection on the world we live in today.

Really??
Really??