Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In defence of Switzerland

This isn't a blog about the Swiss Military.... instead I feel compelled to defend my Swiss friends who came in for the normal stereotypical rhetoric from the Brits after sending out a record speeding fine of around $1M last week. To accompany the report was a "Have your say" forum discussing whether speeding fines should be based on wealth.

Amongst the various obvious comments regarding cuckoo clocks, watches, chocolates and car hating country, were some very wrong assumptions about the speeding fine system in Switzerland. Note: There was also the usual cyclist bashing comment from motorists (don't get me started). So I would like to make some corrections (based also on experience):

1/ There are no license points "awarded" for speeding in Switzerland.... this allows minor offences to be fined without jeopardising mobility;

2/ Fines don't start at 1KPH over the limit. Actually, the police always knock 5KPH off the measured speed;

3/ Fines are on a sliding scale, generally starting at CHF40 for 1KPH;

4/ Wealth based fines only start when you exceed the speed limit by 30KPH in town, 35KPH out of town and 40KPH on motorways;

5/ You will loose your license for at least one month if you exceed the speed limit by 20, 25 or 30KPH respectively.

For further clarification check ot the Basel Police Fine table which applies for most Swiss Cantons. Really, I think the system is quite fair.

Now I can get off my soap-box for today :-)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A belated welcome to Ruben!

Another year passes sans blog without a significant excuse other than the arrival of our son Ruben Wallace on the 3rd November 2009:

Not that Ruben is really an excuse to spend less time in front of a keyboard. I've found fatherhood totally absorbing and have probably become one of those previously loathed fathers of small children with nothing better to discuss than night time feeding routines and the contents of nappies! I'm sure that every parent thinks that their child is beautiful.... I know we do.... just that we are not sure where he get's his cuteness from :-)

Ruben gets his first name from "Rubens Barichello" of Formula 1 fame and his middle name is inherited from Grandad David who sadly passed way last year. Also inherited is his nationality (British) from his parents. Despite being born in Switzerland he is not eligable for Swiss citizenship as his parents are auslanders. One advantage, of course, is that he won't be eligable for military service either. The disadvantage is the bureaucracy envolved in getting him a British passport from the consuate in Paris (yes, Paris.... we used to be able to do this in Geneva but the service was cut..... long before the Torries got back into power).

Amazing then to find that the nine months since "B-Day" have passed so quickly. Autumn is soon upon us (tree's turning already in these parts) and Ruben is keeping his parents on their toes with his super-crab crawling style. He is also a well travelled little man and is notching up the air miles with visits to Grandparents back in England. He's also been to Italy twice, Austria, Germany and France..... but nothing makes me smile more than the look he gives to the neighbours when they talk to him in Swiss German (almost as blank and confused as his parents).

Fiona has spent the last nine months as a full time parent and although exhausted I have never seen her looking so happy and content. I guess that the hole in her heart has been healed. She has built up a great network of friends through the Basel Childbirth Trust who she meets every Tuesday for the "bumps and babes" sessions. I never did get a straight answer as to whether "babes" is referring to "yummie mummy's"..... Ruben would be graduating to the "bumps and bruises" sessions in the autumn, however unfortunately Fiona has to return to the office in October so he won't get the chance. Instead he will be going to kindergarten in Basel which is, thankfully, tri-lingual (english, german, italian) so he will get an excellent start in languages.

As for me, well I've done very little this year.... trying to limit my hours in the office and time spent on work related travel. I did make it to San Fransisco in January and Washington DC in June but that's about it, and enough too.... My fitness has taken a big hit with hardly any exercise all year. I did a bit of MTB'ing in the Dolomites in May but that's all. I brought a trailer for towing Ruben which has been used a few times, but, boy do I need to get fit!

So, hopefully this will be the start of a blogging revival. If you don't see any posts in a while, well, you know that's because I've been busy.... with my beautiful family:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

In Memory of David Graham - 1945 to 2009

Some of you may well ask why I haven't blogged in so long. It's a valid question, with one big answer... there have been many personal things going on this year that didn't seem appropriate to write about (in case of upset to those involved) and it also felt inappropriate to ignore these things in my writing.

June and July were tough months for the whole family. Unfortunately, Fi's father, David, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer at the end of last year. It was incredibly sad to watch an old friend and father become steadily weaker and more frail when you know that there is no cure and nothing that you can do to help. Fi was spending every second weekend in Crawley to be with her family while I "held the fort" back here in Switzerland. Being appart is never easy, however, under the circumstances it was even harder to bear.

It is also a very strange sensation when you are on one side so happy about the future birth of your son and on the other so sad for the loss of a loved family member. We decided very early that our son's middle name would be Wallace in order to maintain the family line from the Graham's.

David passed away peacefully at home. He was only 63. It was a great comfort to the whole family that David was able to spend his last days close to his family and surrounded by the things that were most dear to him. With 24 hour nursing care it was good to see that David always had someone close to him and it was also a great relief to the family who coped so well throughout demonstrating their strength and closeness as a unit. David leaves behind his wife Margaret, his Daughters Fiona and Jenny and his Son Alisdair.

Although a sad event, David's funeral was very well attended. The list of attendees really showed how active David had been in life as a cyclist, drummer, environmentalist, campaigner, and above all dedicated family man. The service was beautiful and included a recording of "Morning has broken" from David's most recent jazz band. They went on to play at the wake which was held at long term friend Chris' pub in East Grinstead.

My memories of David are varied but are all good! From the times when he looked after us youngsters on the Crawley Wheelers clubruns (buying us beer and laughing when we crashed on the way home!) to recent times drinking beer in the sun on the Rigi in Switzerland. David was always supportive of Fi and me and always full of useful advise while never forcing his opinion on others. David was never afraid to embrace new technology and could always keep up in the technology race with Alasdair. We could all learn from him.

I am fairly sure that where ever David is, he will have internet access! So remember, my old freind, you may be gone, but you will never be forgotten. Not by your family, not by your friends and not by your gandchildren! Shine on.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New and Forthcoming Arrivals

I'm pleased to announce that after a long wait, Fi is pregnant (with child, blooming, up the duff, or whatever other way you would like me to put it). Certainly great news and food for thought.... if there were any food left in the house after Fi ate it all! So, there will be some lifechanges ahead which I have been assured will be wonderful, and frankly I can't wait until October! By some coincidence Fi's sister is also pregnant with only a three week difference in due date (sounds like supply chain.... 9 month lead time...). Fi and baby are doing fine so far, despite other issues going on around that I won't mention here. Actually, I'm really proud of how Fi is handling it all with much less panick than me.....

Personally, I'm getting quite excited and have already been checking out baby trailers for the bike. Perhaps I should also invest in a "long vehicle" sign for when it's dangling from the back of the tandem (at least that far back only Fi will hear it screaming). I don't like to refer to the baby as "it" so currently it is known either as "bump" or "squeaker"..... although perhaps we should call it "jaffa cake" based on Fi's current diet. Amazingly we have already decided on names so all we need to know now is squeakers sex...

So what about the new arrival? Yes, I have another bike in the stable. Finally got around to building up my Pinarello with a very nice Campy Super Record 11 speed group. Really, I should be out on it now, instead of writing about it..... but it rained yesterday and there are bound to be damp patches under the trees. It will be MTB instead today.

I am now more sure than ever that pulling out of the Gigathlon was a good idea. Since then my opportunities to ride have been narrowed down by work travels. It's quite a shame though. I've only made it out with the cycling club once this year. Never mind... I've entered a work team for "Bike to Work" month in June... OK, I'll be travelling most of June but the rest of the team can make up for me (just like work - LOL).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Growing Up

Growing up... or getting sensible... or getting wiser as you get older... learning your limitations. Whatever you choose to call it, that point in your life when finally get a grip of reality hits us all eventualy (although there do seem to be some exceptions). Anyhow, I think that I reached that point in life about a week ago and since then can face the world with a lucid clarity that I don't think I've ever experienced before. Suddenly, my aims are clear and I really know where I would like my future to be whilst maintaining a solid grounding in the present.

Don't get me wrong..... I haven't got religion (of any kind) or had a drug-induced vision and certainly haven't been reading any self-help guides for the disoriented! Seems I just woke up a few days ago with a recalibrated life-compass and self-determination that I didn't have when my head hit the pillow the previous evening.

So what does this mean? I'm still me.... moody, stubborn, driven... just a more realistic me. First thing I did was to pull out of the Gigathlon. I didn't realize how much pressure I was putting myself under with that one and now feel realy relaxed about my cycling. Suddenly my bike rides are just for fun and fitness.... not that they are any fewer or lower intensity. Now I can make time for other activities (especially spending time with friends) without feeling guilty about that lost hour on the bike, or skipping the last climb because I'd rather be home with Fiona! There will still be a place for competition.... just at a realistic level that suits my lifestyle. There are just so many other interesting things to do. For instance, I spent the afternoon with Lorenz last Saturday visiting Astronomical Observatories. Very interesting, great fun.... and a good meal afterwards!

Work continues to consume alot of time and energy so I'm really lucky that I enjoy my job. Last week I was in Italy, in the region of Napoli and just in the shadow of Vesuvius. Always a pleasure to visit my colleagues there as they make me feel really welcome..... just wish the flight connections from here were a little easier. Fiona will tell you that I've been managing the travel and pressure better this year. Easy to say at the moment as I'm off for a week... BUT... no Blackberry... no withdrawal symptoms as there is plenty of other stuff to do in the beautiful spring weather that has finally decided to arrive in these parts.

Well, I hope it is Spring and not just a warm week as I put my summer tyres on the car this morning.... followed with cutting the grass for the first time. We even have frog-sporn in the swimming pool (not worried as we are going to get it filled in this year). Ahhh, the country life ;-)

Fröh Ostern!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I need to remark on how priveledged I am to have such great friends! Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to drive down to Tuscany and meet up with my old East Grinstead CC team mates. Steve B, Steve D, Andy S, Paul B and Brian P were competing in a team time trial at Forte di Marmi, so I thought I would go and watch. They did good, recording 19th out of 170 teams...... I'm sure there will be a report soon on the EGCC web site, so I won't go into further details here.

Despite not participating in the time trial, I managed to get a couple of rides with the lads. On Saturday they were preparing for the race so proved to be a good indicator of my general lack of fitness. I was hanging on Steve D's wheel at around 50KPH and a pulse of 191BPM (don't tell my cardiologist). It was a true through and off manouver..... Steve went through and I went off..... off the back that is! Ouch!

You can tell good friends by the way you can just pick up where you left off with them. It was really just like old times, except that I was the whipping boy! I think they were getting their revenge on the Scratchman. I took another kicking on Monday morning when we all went for a ride in the Tuscan hills behind Lucca. I thought that the boys would be tired after their efforts on Sunday.... nope. First hill and I was shelled out... very quickly. Not to worry, it was fun to be out in a group and I could mainly hold my own on the flat. Just a shame that Brian had a spill on one othe dodgy damp and gritty decents. Fortunately, not too much damage done..... and soon forgotten following a pasta lunch sitting out in the Spring sunshine. Link to route of ride.

Steve and Alex (along with extended Italian family) were, as always very welcoming. How they continue to put up with hosting the British rabble, I just don't know..... Anyway, thanks from me for everything!

Unfortunately, the weekend was over far too quickly and we were saying our good-byes much too soon. A quick (5hr) drive over the Alps via Milano and back into the chilly Swiss night. Brrrrr! When is spring going to arrive here? Roll on my next visit to Tuscany..... I'll be fitter by then.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


For a number of reasons, that are just too sad or personal to mention here, 2009 has already thrown some hard challenges at Fi and me. January was an incredibly tough month, especially after having enjoyed a beautiful and relaxing Christmas in the Dolomites. Shit happens. It just seems that sometimes there is a muck spreader parked outside the front door!

And it's cold. The weather certainly doesn't help the mood at the moment. On the health front, I've had cold after cold this year, culminating in catching flu last week whilst in New York. I returned early and spent two days in bed. Lovely..... at least I had an excuse to get some sleep and I also discovered that when you feel ill you don't notice jet lag. However, I don't recommend long haul flights with the flu, even in business class.

Reviewing my "resolutions" for the year, I am pleased to say that I have made progress on all of them. Since drinking 15 beers in NYC last Saturday night I'm pleased to say that I have now given up alcohol. Not sure how long it will last, but it's good for my weight which is getting progresively lower. I'm trying hard (even if unsuccesfuly) to give up working at the weekends, although, I haven't been up to cycling and I do need something other than the playstation to fill up my time.

I'm definately trying to stay positive. Boy, that's hard at the moment. I'm planning a comeback on the bike this year (again) and have just finished building up an old Treck OCLV that I "found" in the loft. One day, I'll get around to building up the Pinarello Paris I bought two years ago.... but that is going to be expensive (will have to be Campag Record 11 Speed). Fiona and I are going to be spending holidays in England this year, so there is a good chance of doing some races in blighty as I build up to the Gigathlon in July. I have a "race" up Alpe d'Huez planned for August that has €10 resting on it..... and my pride. So if the cold weather and the flu would just go away, I could do with getting on with some training. Please.

I need to remark how useful Facebook has been in getting in contact with a lot of old friends. I've recently rekindled many old friendships and have a long list of people to contact next time I'm in the UK. I caught up with my old cycling buddy Leigh in NYC last weekend (hence the beer). Next time we'll be cycling together again, only 6000Km west of our old stomping grounds of Surrey and Sussex.

So, here's hoping for a brighter and warmer outlook.