Posted in Uncategorized

Into the unknown…

I am about to disappear into the vast abyss that is the US Embassy here in Paris in the hopes of renewing my passport – that alone is a stressful event, I find (queues, paperwork, pictures, payment…take a number, hurry up and wait). 

I, however am in the unfortunate position of needing it expedited, hence the personal visit. Eek. 

They will take my phone away on the door, so here goes nothing. Wish me luck, y’all.   (Not sure where that came from, there must be a Texan nearby.)


No photos of embassy, not a wise move. 

Posted in Cumbria, Hiking, Italy, Travel, Yoga

Grateful

I know I haven’t posted for a while,and I apologise. Life has become very hectic since the start of  September – I am working full time (but very local, which is great) whilst at the same time studying a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Dharma Yoga in St Germain en Laye. It’s wonderful but busy.

I have other goals which include writing, exercise outside the yoga studio and the most important one, looking after my beautiful family.

On that note, I feel compelled to share a snippet of the last two wonderful weeks I have just spent in the bosom of family. (Did I really just use the word ‘bosom’?)

In a very decadent move, we took the full two weeks of the school holiday off, being the last ‘school holiday’ in which we will have offspring in school – our youngest will be on study leave and racing toward his A levels by the time Half Term hits in May. End of an era, perhaps.

We were fortunate enough to return to a tradition we had to abandon for a few years whilst we lived to faraway, which is a week with an extended group of family and friends in a holiday cottage in the Lake District in the North of England for a week of hiking, talking, laughing, eating and drinking (and more laughing). The group shifted and changed over the years as some friends would join us for a week, maybe return for a few years or never again (we get lost A LOT so it’s understandable ) but there was always a core that extended to 14, including 3 generations of our family.

Our traditional group was missing one core family this year who had other commitments, making our group 10 this time  – but I do hope they’ll make it again as their absence was felt.

The weather was magnificent, the house had the most wonderful view of the Langdales and we enjoyed reconnecting with friends and family who all live far from us. In addition to all that, our kids (now aged 18 and 21) still want to come with us; not only do they come, they embrace the experience with enthusiasm (except for the getting lost part).

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From Silver How looking across at Grasmere
Ullswater
I didn’t say it was warm.

 

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The father-in-law, AKA ‘Doobs’. Still climbing to the top of stuff. 

To top it all, the day after we arrived, we attended the glorious wedding of dear friends in Glenridding, at the Inn on the Lake. John was ‘joint Best Man’, he didn’t just place himself in the official photos.

It was a truly magnificent day of celebration; the weather, the bride and groom, the setting, the wedding guests. It was perfection.

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Spring wedding on Lake Ullswater

Congratulations Nobby (sorry…David!) and Katy.  Thank you for letting us share your special day.

When our Cumbrian week was over, we said our goodbyes and three families headed in separate geographical directions, all having been fortified by the scenery, the sometimes bracing walks and our friendship.

But it wasn’t over yet. I did tell you we took two weeks off. We had a ‘house swap’ in the bag, as fellow Homelink-ers had visited our cottage last April;  we had decided to cash in our week with them in Trabia, Sicily.

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View from the terrace

This was the view from our terrace. Not bad, eh? Shame I didn’t take any photos in the sunshine!

One week is simply not long enough in Sicily, but we tried to pack as much in as we could. It is a stunning island, the people are friendly and helpful, the driving is terrible.

We visited the town of Cefalù, which has a long sandy beach and distinctive twin-towered Cathedral, all nestled beneath the impressive Rocca di Cefalù. We climbed to the top, and got some lovely pictures from the summit, but I somehow didn’t manage to capture a picture of the rock towering over the town. Here is an an image I found online, taken from the water.

Photo courtesy of Siciliafan.it

Another day, we drove over to Scopello and walked in the Zingaro Nature Reserve, to the most stunning beach.

We watched a Coast Guard rescue, which was quite exciting (I’m not being callous, the injury seemed to be only a twisted ankle, so nothing critical, though painful I’m sure).

There was more, so much more. We visited mountain villages, Castelbouno and Pollina, which had an ancient amphitheatre. We were treated to a bit of Shakespeare (thanks, Jack).

 

We visited a fishing village, my favourite bit being the sunken ship in the harbour that they just left there. Oh, and the swordfish I had for lunch. Delicious.

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Portocello

I am now home, and feeling very fortunate to have experienced all of this with my family.  Shame we can’t rewind and do it all again, but that would be greedy.

I will, however, be self indulgent, and share a few more pictures.

Yoga with a view
Cupid’s fountain
Castelbuono
Castelbuono

 

Portocello Harbour

 

 

 

Posted in Hiking, Travel

Mount Si

We set off this morning to climb Mount Si – its highest point is 3900ft with 3150 ft of ascent and 8 miles round trip.

Making the decision to get an early(ish) start and being parked at the trailhead by 7:45 turned out to be very wise – it was still cool and the car park had plenty of spaces.  Also not too many people (not that I don’t like people, I just don’t want to be on the mountain with half of the population of Washington State).

We were up at the top by around 10am and had a little roam around, taking pictures of the outstanding views.

We then started to climb Haystacks, and decided quite swiftly to turn back. The rock face was steep, extremely smooth rock with lots of ineffective hand and foot holds for an amateur. Experienced rock climbers will mock me, but I did not feel at all secure and came shakily back down, acknowledging defeat. I am glad to say that my family did as well. We saw other hikers that had been up, and they all made it back down alive. To me it really wasn’t worth the risk. Haystack 1, Ryders 0.  Unfortunately Haystack is considered the official summit of Mount Si, but in my opinion we reached the top.

Some websites give appropriate warnings, such as Summitpost.org

The Haystack has a few rock routes on its southern and eastern flanks, and on the north side, there is a route to the top that can be scrambled. The summit scramble is not for everyone. This can’t be stressed enough. A fall off of the Haystack is going to be an uncontrolled fall. People have been seriously injured, and in some cases people have died scrambling to the top. Use extreme caution when making the scramble, and if it’s foggy or raining, seriously consider coming back another day.

It wasn’t wet, but it still was very slippery as the stone is so smooth. I do think the official trail organisation, Washington Trail Association, should update the description on their website which only mentions a rough scramble.

Anyway, it was a beautiful walk and a gorgeous day. We all made it up and down, and apart from the Haystack there was no danger, no risk of losing the trail as it is very well maintained and not too strenuous. A very enjoyable and picturesque hike.

Here are my favourite pics:

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Montage of Seattle/Olympia Photos

Just in case you were expecting a travel log – it’s a photo log. Too much to tell, but what a great place. We LOVE Seattle (though we do NOT love the traffic!) and Washington in general. Olympia is a very cool little town, the downtown area is very arty and inclusive, has  a great vibe. (Did I just use the word vibe? Am I officially a hippy now?)

Enjoy. We did.

Posted in fitness, altitude, Uncategorized, Yoga

Yoga, hikes and a Bobcat

Not all at the same time, you understand, or even on the same day. It could have been, though. Had our hikes been less populated, I may have been tempted to strike a peaceful balance beside Snow Lake or on Rattlesnake Ledge (ooh, maybe not up there, actually. Bit scary. The ledge, not the rattle snakes. There aren’t any rattlesnakes here, or so I am assured). The bobcat was a bit of luck, and not at all what I expected to see in the back yard.

I’ve lumped them in, because they are my most interesting thoughts over the past few days.  No other reason. I could have labeled the post ‘Sunday – Tuesday in Sammaish, WA’, but would you be reading now? No, I didn’t think so. So here’s what we’ve been up to.

We moved from Olympia to Sammamish on Thursday night to take advantage of a house exchange we’d arranged through Homelink International. Great idea, we’ve got use of a local couple’s house for a week with no exchange of money.  They will visit our cottage at a separate time, all signed and sealed in our exchange agreement. If you’ve never considered it, I recommend it. This is our fourth exchange and we’ve got another one imminent in Sicily.  Leave me a message if you’d like more information – it’s a really cool way to travel to different places and often you can use your hosts’ car as well.

On Sunday morning, Megan and I did a Hot Power Vinyassa class first thing, (more about that later) and then we all set off  on I90 to the Alpental Ski Area parking, and headed straight uphill (with the masses) to see Snow Lake. It’s just over 7 miles round trip (up and back the same route) 1800 feet of climbing, highest point was 4400 ft.

The effort was worth the views, most definitely. If I had to give a future hiker advice it would be get there early and avoid summer weekends. Autumn might be a lovely time to go, midweek and after the kids all go back to school!

Unfortunately, on Sunday there was a scourge of loud, rather obnoxious people intruding on any peace there may have been – the hike was beautiful otherwise. A particularly loud group were shouting and doing cannonball jumps into the lake off a rock –  generally showing off to each other and disturbing the tranquility for everyone. Shame, as it was a beautiful spot.

On Monday we drove Megan back to Olympia to work (boo!) and back to Sammamish. A full day’s driving before 10:30, with a nice little break in the middle at our favourite breakfast spot in Olympia,  New Moon Cooperative Cafe , a really great little independent cafe in Olympia, excellent breakfast at sensible prices, wide choices available for meat-eaters and veggies/vegans alike. Highly recommend it if you’re in the area.

‘Where’s the bobcat?’, I hear you ask. Well, on Monday evening, we’d returned to our temporary home, and I was sitting on their back deck (facing the house for some reason) when Jack suddenly pointed behind me, and there, not 10 metres away, was the bobcat. I think I startled her (looking at photos, we think it was a female) and she trotted into next door’s garden. She didn’t go far, as my husband spotted her sitting under a tree next door. She started heading back towards us and then she spotted us again and legged it into the woods behind the houses.  Behind us is a small thicket and behind the trees is another close. It’s surrounded by houses, this area is wholly residential, a sort of commuter town for Seattle. She must have walked through multiple suburban gardens to end up in our back yard.

There’s a regional state park about two or three miles away, it’s only 600 acres but they do have black bears and bobcats so maybe she’d gone for a bit of a stroll herself. Checking out the domestic pet situation over here. I grabbed my iPhone (not the greatest tool for hastily snapped photos of moving wildlife, but it was all I had handy) and these are the rest of the pictures I managed to take.

I know – I’m no David Attenborough, but it’s all I have for you, folks. If you don’t like it, move along!

As for the yoga – as discussed in a previous post, I’ve been trying to fit more yoga into my life and after a pleasant first ‘hot yoga’ experience at Corepower Yoga in Seattle, I thought I would try the local one here which is Hot Yoga Experience. I’m not sure what they used to heat the studio at Corepower, but here they use far infrared to heat the room to 103°F which is the equivalent of around 40°C. They had a special offer going, so we signed up on the spot!

Not sure exactly what I feel about ‘hot’ yoga, compared to ‘normal temperature’ yoga – the heat definitely helps to warm up the muscles, much quicker than during a regular class. I felt more flexible and able to hold the postures in the heated room, and didn’t feel faint as I thought I might. But the sweat! Oh dear! I don’t know if sweating really helps with toxins or with yoga, and there are conflicting opinions about whether or not you burn more calories during ‘hot yoga.

It wasn’t why I went so I’m not really worried about that, but there was one article I read that suggested that, because you are abnormally warmed up, there was more danger of injury as you work beyond your natural limits, and push further into stretches or postures. So far this has not been the case for me, though just the act of going inside to an extremely hot room, when the sun is shining outside is kind of unnatural. However, I have a special introductory offer, limited time to use it and if left to my own devices I might only manage 30 minutes of gentle yoga per day. So. I went.

Today we wandered up Rattlesnake Ledge and the views were also worth the effort. It was only 4 miles round trip, and not at all steep. Lots of humans at the top again, but better behaved today 🙂

I’ll add a few pictures of that as well because it was a glorious day, and the return (same route again, not keen on those really) took us back down to the shores of Rattlesnake Lake, which proved to be a lovely spot for a quick swim before heading back to base.

That’s all for now. I am camped out on the back deck, waiting for my friend to come back. Here, kitty-kitty-kitty.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Writer’s block

Full Definition of writer’s block

  1. :  a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece

Posted in Uncategorized

The most confusing places on earth

Government buildings in foreign countries seem to set out to confuse everyone, even (especially?) in countries where they speak English.

In Zambia the ‘official’ language is English, though it is not the language that most Zambian’s speak at home. However, you can expect to find out what you need to know if you speak English. Usually.

Collecting my work permit in Zambia would have been absolutely impossible without the assistance (hand-holding, really) of our local admin staff at AISL. It wasn’t a language issue, it was an organisation issue. Luckily, we were walked through the whole process, which involved standing in several unmarked queues for over an hour, being sent “over there ” with a vague flutter of the hand. Our school representative knew exactly where to go and what to do – she’d done this dozens of times before. We got the work permits, job done and dusted. Mine was valid for 2 years.

Fast forward a couple of years to France, 2015. I have ‘misplaced’ (i.e lost) my Carte de Sejour. This is effectively my visa and work permit, which is valid until 2018. So back in September,  I trundled off to the prefecture to apply for a replacement. I joined one queue. Once I got to the front I was told I was in the wrong queue, I needed to go to Window 9 and get a number. Then you wait until your number is called. I go to Window 9, there is no real queue, I am pleased to see, but a couple of people loitering nearby, I realise they are the ‘queue’. Meanwhile, a couple of dozen people are littered across the bench seats facing the service windows-  ‘guichets’ in French.  They appear to be waiting for their number to be called.

As there’s no real system, I smile at the man at the ‘end’ of the queue and stand a bit further back so it is clear I am also waiting.

A woman comes through a door behind me and marches up to the window.  She stands behind the woman currently being ‘served’. It is all taking a very long time to simply get a number, so I’m not really delighted to have a queue jumper. When she looks at me, I indicate the other two poor saps and myself and say ‘Nous attendons’.

This is when it got embarrassing. A very kind young woman came over to me – she spoke English thankfully or perhaps I would have been lynched when I still didn’t understand. She quietly told me (with dozens of, now I think about it, angry watchers sitting on benches facing the service windows) that she was also in the queue, as were all of the people now glaring at me with real hatred in their eyes.

As the lightbulb came on, my embarrassment multiplied. I wanted to run out and forget the carte de sejour – I don’t need to work in France, do I? Not really…oh wait yes I do.

No, I stood my ground, apologised profusely in two languages and went to the back of a very long slow queue. Once I got my number, I did it all over again.

Misunderstandings are a daily occurrence for me here – I waited for 5 months before chasing them- I was under the impression it would be sent to my house. Apparently I have to collect it, and the first opportunity I’ve had to do that is today.

Which brings us to another frustrating morning standing in queues.

When I finally got to the front of the line, to mystical Guichet 9, the woman puffed out her cheeks at the date printed on my paper. December? I explained that I thought they would send it to me. She took my passport (my photo is on the paper she just looked at but luckily I remembered to bring my passport ‘just in case’). She then garbled something quickly about paying something and wafted her hands toward the door to the street. What? Where do I need to go now? I heard ‘impôt’ – I have to pay a fine? What for? Because it was lost. Oh.

She sent me down the road to the centre des impots – except that it’s not called that and she only gave the road name, not the full address. She smiled like a great white shark as she told me I’d need to be back before 12:30. The oh-so -important lunch break. Oh, and she didn’t tell me, but I figured out that they won’t reopen today after lunch. Don’t be silly. It’s Wednesday.

No address, wrong sign- no big deal, I found it. I stood for a short while in a somewhat shorter line than at the Prefecture, after which I was told that , no he didn’t have any left. Any what? Timbre fiscale. Is that what I need?  A stamp? Apparently it’s not a rubber stamp on my paper to say I’ve paid, it’s a physical adhesive stamp like a postage stamp. But he didn’t have any, and not only that, he couldn’t imagine any shop in St Germain having one, so he sent me several miles down the road to the Bureau de Tabac in the next town, Chambourcy.

When I got there I realised it wasn’t THE ‘Bureau de Tabac’, which I thought had to be different to an ordinary ‘tabac’ where people buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. No, no it was exactly that sort of tabac, begging the question: there must be dozens of those in St Germain en Laye, why did I need to go to Chambourcy for that?  Ho hum. No idea, he didn’t tell me that, or if he did, I didn’t understand him.

Ok, funny little fine stamps bought, back to the Prefecture to stand in another queue. I didn’t dare jump the queue (again), even though the shark-woman had given me a number- it corresponded to nothing on the monitors calling people to the various windows.

A very self important man jumped the queue in front of me, not really asking, saying he was just coming back with his photocopies. When I showed him my number, indicating that I, too had already waited in the very long queue more than once, he turned his back and held his place in front of me.

He proceeded to cross two different ‘lines of confidentiality’, rudely pushing his body in front of other people who were being served  – because he was (obviously) much more important than they were. Luckily he didn’t try to get back in front of me again as I would have been tempted to kick him.

I waited and was rewarded, if not with a smile, then with my new valid,nCarte de Sejour. I am once again able to prove I’m allowed to live here and legally work as well- at least until 2018. I think that’s good news. Phew!

I look happy, don’t I?

 

Posted in Uncategorized

New Location, New Blog

Hello, very nice of you to stop by. Welcome to my new ‘old’ blog.

Apologies if you have visited my page before and are currently experiencing some confusion. I will explain the ‘left turn’ in content and header picture in just a moment.

I will introduce myself first. My name is Jerri Ryder, and I am, among other things, an aspiring writer. Wow, that feels very bold and scary to announce it just like that. Almost as though I’m planning to publish a book, or something. Oh, wait, I do plan to publish my book.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to the intro. I currently live just outside Paris for the second time around, with my husband, our teenage son, one Manx Border Collie and two cats. We have a grown-up daughter at University in the UK, and life is pretty busy.  We have moved around quite a bit, having lived in Yorkshire, Isle of Man, Paris and Zambia. My husband and I also lived in Kingfield, Maine for one memorable winter, but that’s another story, from a different lifetime.  

We returned to Paris from Zambia in August, (a real case of two worlds colliding) and I now find myself regularly defending my atrocious French. Time to stop defending it: either improve or accept that I am no linguist. I hate to admit defeat, and have come to accept certain OCD qualities. So I shall try to improve. It is a bit unnerving at my age to discover new flaws, however we’ll treat them as strengths instead.  Perfectionist. Optimist. Mmm. Moving along…

Let’s finally get to the raison d’etre of this blog: I am attempting to finally, ultimately and against all the odds, (the ones I place against myself) finish my very first novel.

I have several projects in the pipeline, but my main focus is my novel which hovers around 46,000 words at last count this afternoon. I hit one or two hiccups a few weeks ago and read a few ‘writer blogs’. I decided to follow one excellent piece of ‘writerly’ advice –  ‘just write’. Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that? That makes it sound as though I’m mocking it – I’m not. Write every day, that is my new motto. Every Damn Day. 

The second piece of advice I decided that made sense was ‘get on with it and publish’, even if you aren’t ready to publish your masterpiece. (I’m calling my novel my ‘masterpiece’, because if you don’t blow your own trumpet, who will?) Not a rhetorical question, I’m asking – who will?? Anyone? 

Blogs apparently count as publishing in this context, which is lucky for me – I’ve been dabbling in blogging for a little while. Not that anyone reads most of them, other than me. That could be because I’ve set the privacy settings so high that I am literally the only person who can read them.  I’m scared people will be able to read them. And comment. Numpty. 

I started this blog when we moved to Zambia in 2012 and called it And That’s All She Wrote; I feel this format could still serve me, even though my African adventure is over, for now. I had not posted on this blog for over a year.  I decided it is time to resurrect it.

I religiously posted everyday during our Coast to Coast walk last summer, 192 Miles.  Of course, once it’s over, you can’t keep posting about it. Not when you’re back at home with your feet up, cup of tea in hand. It would just seem wrong. 

And voilà! Here we are, my new blog, where I plan to waffle, babble, repost helpful advice and generally try to inspire myself to get on and finish it. And get this. I’m going to make it public. Yup. Public. People can read it. They might not, they probably won’t in all honesty because who cares about what I’ve got to say? But they could. They might. And if you’re reading it now, I have one reader. You might even decide to follow me, how exciting would that be? And you might not even be my mother. 

What’s even more exciting, you might click on one of those links up there, and see what I’ve written before. Why would you? I don’t know, but if I was reading this, I would. 

Next time, I will discuss my work in progress, let you know how it’s going and request advice on the problems I have encountered while trying to write fiction (of which there are many). I won’t give away any plots or spoilers, (other than the fact that I’m writing fiction) – don’t worry. I want you to buy the book.  Especially if you are not my mother.