So where's the snow?

Muddling through in Austria; God, life and a small black dog


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Durlston country park, Swanage


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The Journey#2

It was strange sitting so high in the van, but Mark is a professional driver, so I let go and really tried not to drive with him. He cut in and out in a way I’d never have the courage to do. At the border with Germany, we unexpectedly caught a jam. Two accidents, then we sailed through. We stopped after four hours as we reckoned that Swingle would sleep. After that, we made it every couple of hours. It was a warm day, and we made sure we kept her hydrated. She would be so pleased to see us, then leap out to all the great smells in the stops. I just loved all the changing scenery as we went through Germany and France. We reached Calais, after one major jam for a car accident. Swingle was scared by the sirens, but we couldn’t get her out and it took half an hour to find a place to stop, but she had calmed by then. Mark has been moving animals for years and he was completely right about how she would handle it. The dark place became safe for her.

We got to our hotel in Calais in good time as Mark knew a shortcut that by bypassed a load of traffic. We parked in a compound that housed all the vehicles for the Calais police force. They kept a van permanently parked there. During the night, they set off some alarms and there was shouting; I guess they had arrested someone. We saw a group of non uniformed officers going off on plain clothes duty. And in our room, Swingle’s water got spilled all over the floor! We went for a walk, but there were no parks. We couldn’t find an evening meal so ended up getting snacks from Lidl! The air was warm and it was a hot, close night. Despite having drinking lots on the journey, Swingle downed two bowls of water in the room. That resulted in two trips out in the night and a poop. We went to our rooms in the lift first of all, she scared herself by seeing a black dog in the lift mirror and looked for it behind the mirror. Then her tail stopped the door shutting. In the night, we took her to the huge roundabout opposite the hotel, so much traffic in the day she loved it. She had major sensory overload on each stop, from so many other dogs!

We were zombie like in the morning. We left for the P&O ferry at Calais; the tunnel having gone up hugely in price at the beginning of the summer. Mark was nervous as there had been so many problems with the border control over the Covid months, and he’d just heard that from the weekend, France would be only accepting essential UK travellers.

We went to the first booth, manned by two grumpy looking officers who wouldn’t speak but ordered us to the UK border control. There were various groups from Romania etc, who seemed to be having problems getting through. When or turn came, we had a smile and waved through. Mark had told us we had our location forms linked to our passports, so I guessed all was Ok. We felt a huge relief.

When we got to the P&O kiosk, the proverbial hit the fan. Inside was sat a poker faced guy, with long hair and glasses, and wouldn’t react to Mark’s politeness. We had to do all the forms, and he refused our location forms because I hadn’t put we had come through France, so our form was green for Austria, not Amber for France. I was getting my files and laptop to change it, but Mark did a whole new form. It got us through, but I’m having kittens that on Monday morning I’ll get a call from Gov UK demanding an explanation. Then the chip reader couldn’t find Swingles chip, and grumpy pants had to get another. We queued for the ferry, glad to have left grumpy pants behind. We guessed he was part of the French not liking the UK, and he didn’t want to do all these checks. Then as we were about to board, one of the Marshalls said we were missing a yellow sticker, Grumpy’s bloodymindedness or stress?

Once on, we left Swingle in the van and had breakfast in the lorry drivers’ café, the staff were so helpful and I even got some gluten free toast, eggs and bacon! She was fine, maybe the ferry’s engine’s made her think the van was moving, we certainly didn’t need to dope her. Once off the ferry, we sailed through customs  much to Mark’s relief. I felt a bit emotional at finally returning home, but was so tired, I remained calm. The journey to Wales was uneventful, with few traffic jams. We took all our furniture to the store, and they opened up for us. It seemed so little. Swingle was reaching the end of her tether with the box. She started scratching to get out of it each time we shut the door, only to quieten when the engine started. At the store, I tied her to a trolley and gave her a big chew that cheered her up. At the hotel she was out like a bullet, having been in the rattly, empty bus.

Then in Cardiff, the road was closed to the hotel, and Mark drove us around the block to find it He was so kind to do it, we were all geared up to catch the train into Cardiff. He made all the difference to the trip. I would have gone to pieces with the driving and the problems. But our troubles were over. When we checked in, our Covid tests hadn’t arrived. I rang the firm, who said they had been returned due to a wrong address. I had written in the name from the booking form and had been unable to find a number and had the right post code. The bloke was really helpful, although I was so angry. Why hadn’t I been contacted? I had been under such stress I’d forgotten that I should get a text when they were despatched, it seems royal mail didn’t even dispatch them and the man hinted it was my fault for not writing hotel on the address. He promised to get them dispatched asap Monday, but did hint it was my fault for not writing hotel! But I checked all the documents, and non had hotel on the name. It remains to see if they will turn up. And we won’t take the rest on Monday, He said it was okay to do it on the third, as it was due to courier failure. I just hope.


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Home or away?

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Regular readers will know that many times I’ve used the view from our kitchen window,here in Austria, in snow and summer as I waste many idle minutes pondering on life, talking to God and just watching the birds and the weather.

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When we were in Swanage, we rented a small cottage on the High Street. Completely unexpectedly we found the most incredible view over Swanage.  To the right we could see the sea over the rooftops, in front all the lovely grey stone cottages and the Swanage Railway and bus station. The hills behind the town beckoned me to walk them again. We could even sit on the loo and watch the trains steaming in and out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was a view to engross and always something new.

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Then it struck me.  Here out of my window, I see and hear no sounds of life apart from the waterfall, nor see people apart from cars on the road. Here, as I sat in the garden was the noise of trains, buses, cars, but most of all, LIFE.

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I could hear people in the street talking as they walked past, people going to the church over the road, people pottering in their gardens, doors banging, birds singing. And people are life. Suddenly my home seems like an empty wilderness.

Jeremiah 29, v 10-14


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The siren

Not an alien on the roof!

Every Saturday at Midday,the siren on our roof goes off in one long blast, and it’s quite deafening.  It always makes me think of film ‘The Time Machine, when the Morlocks call their victims in.  I suppose it was installed during the war years as an Air raid siren, but has remained.  When we asked Tony why it still goes, he says that although the Fire and Police service have bleepers, often there is no reception in parts of the mountains, or if he leaves the bleeper in the kitchen and where there is a siren in every village, very few areas don’t hear it.  It’s then a rush to the Fire station etc to man the wagons.

In October, there is a testing day.  Besides the normal, we get three blasts with a small pause which is calling, Fire and Police and maybe the Mountain Rescue. A long extended one means somethings really up and you need to put your tv on and find out what the national disaster is. 

It doesn’t go off that often.  We like it when we have visitors and don’t tell them and see how they react and of course the joke never palls of asking someone the time as it goes off on Saturday.  It even once went off just after we’d told some friends all about it and they weren’t really believing us.  If we don’t know what the call out was for, we can always go to the Pub on Sunday and ask Tony.  One occasion it was that someone hadn’t gone home from the pub and a search was initiated – he was found in a ditch!  Last night it went off twice in five minutes which we’ve never heard in five years, we are now wondering if no one turned up to the first one………..


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Turracher Hoehe – ugliest resort in Austria?

Benidorm, pagaoda and bunker!

Dave and I took some time to do some walking and coaxed the Fiat Panda up the hill to this resort.  We’d seen it in winter and with the lake frozen and snowed over it looked ok.  However, this spring with little growth   and grass I wasn’t too impressed.

It seems that in Austria there are no coherent planning policies, just look at the eyesores of the ski lift housings that scar the hillsides, but that’s ok – its making someone money. Of course, all of our landscapes are products of the land being used and worked, and we look at the old stuff and think its cute – and maybe people in a hundred years time will think our contemporary stuff cute.  We have an argument about a wind farm on a hill-top in the Lungau, but no one murmurs about large banks of solar panels in the valleys – but as I say all signs of our time.

So, here in a major resort as Dave so rightly points out, we have Benidorm in hugely extended older hotels, a concrete bunker trying to be a Hotel, a chinese pagoda with a copper roof, tele tubby land (doesn’t show up in these shots but is a buried fitness centre) and plain purpose-built bland hotels.

My view is YUCK!  Couldnt someone have created a policy for the look of the resort, diversity is attractive but! I suppose though, most of the visitors are only concerned with burning down the snow as quickly as possible and getting drunk afterwards………..


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Garden time; Cow bells and early summer

Now the Ice man has taken himself off, its like summer is advancing rapidly.  The dandelions have turned to heads and the air is filled with them, along with willow seeds.  The Margarita daisies -(probably the wrong name) are coming into flower with great drifts of white. Yet it’ll be  two or three more weeks until the flowers start showing their heads up in the Alms. 

We’re now getting lots of drizzle, so I’ve put out all the geraniums and the terrace flowers.  It looks complete chaos until I get them sorted out, but they’re all getting a good watering!  The Peas have got their sticks and the courgettes are showing the odd head, I’ll have to plant my indoor reserves if they don’t get a move on!  The carrots are showing and the occasional parsnip – I wonder if we’ll beat last years astonishing crop!  The brussels and the kohl Rabi are slowly recovering from the frost.  The garden centre where Dave works, lost all of their tomatoes.  Before the frost they lost 300 due to a virus and afterwards all had to be chucked.  It’s still manic there, with people queuing up to buy veggie plugs and geraniums, I just wonder where all these people went before, the centre only opened three years ago.  We’ve bought one more cucumber plant, and have clipped the damage off the old ones, hopefully they may recover, they’ve got fruit on.

BUT most of all, the cows are going up to the alms, the tractors with the open top trailers are heading uphill with the cows sniffing and sticking their noses over the top.  Some cows are turned out here in the valley, ready kitted with their bells, heavenly music. I must be daft, this I love but a windchime, I can’t stand!  Not everyone here likes the bells, someone I know stuff their neighbour’s cow’s bell full with  loo paper to stop them dinging in the early morning and waking them up – and these are local people not incomers!!!!!