Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Nice Things About Switzerland #5: The Last Croissant

It would be a damned dirty lie to call the Swiss polite. Their attitude to queuing is downright primitive and if you try to exit a lift, navigate through a supermarket, or get on a tram, you can't, because there's a Swiss guy in your way. If I had to get married, (most likely as part of a tax wheeze or elaborate prank), I wouldn't do it in Switzerland, because there would be Swiss people blocking the aisle, blowing foul cigarette fumes over me as I tried to sidestep them.

But one aspect of politeness is alive and well. No Swiss person will ever, ever eat the last croissant.

Which is great for me, because I have zero shame. I'm this guy:

Hold the doughnut aloft

My work often takes me to offices, which is great because people in offices have meetings, and meetings are powered by coffee, croissants, and cookies. I don't drink coffee but the rest is manna from heaven. Free grub!

The last biscuit: mine

The last croissants: mine

Thanks, Switzerland!


The doughnut picture is taken from the book 'The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Guide' which is full of handy tips about how to survive stuff. Mostly serious, but with some lighter entries like 'How to Break Up with a Vampire'.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Asterix and Caesar's Gift: Latin Jokes Explained

A bigger, better version of this article now appears on my new Asterix site - click the white link just above this article. The one that says 'Everything Asterix'.

I understand it's annoying to be directed here and have to go there, but I promise it's worth it.

The new site is extremely beautiful, by the way. It's probably going to win an award and be preserved by UNESCO.

The difference between this cramped, stuffy blog and that luxury site is the same as when you sell your one-bedroom flat in London and buy a six-bedroom villa anywhere else in the country. The furniture is better, the air is clearer, and you can stroll around your garden smelling flowers and sighing contentedly.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Swiss Army Knife (3)

What can the Swiss Army Knife (SAK) tell us about Switzerland? A generous student gave me one. It has 21 functions and by trying to find a use for them all, maybe I'll learn something about Swiss culture. Or maybe I'll just make up some outrageous lies and pass them off as fact.

Click here to read part one or part two. I'm writing about the functions in the order I use them. I'd hoped to write a post about all 21 functions, but I have written about the small knife 3 times already. 

Function 15 - Wood Saw

What the Wood Saw teaches us about Switzerland is that the Swiss are AWFUL at movie trivia.

I was watching In Bruges with my Swiss girlfriend, Jen. From the moment Ċ½eljko Ivanek came on, Jen kept saying, "Is that John Malkovich? It is, isn't it?" And I kept saying no, of course it wasn't.

One of these men is John Malkovich.

She wouldn't admit defeat, so I did an image search for John Malkovich and invited her to compare the image on the phone with the image on the screen. She fell silent.

"BOOM!" I roared. "Uh-huh, uh-huh!" I did a jiggly squirm of victory. "One nil!" I punched the air. "And still undisputed conversation champion of the world... Andrew... Gi-raaaaarrrrrrrrrrrr-din!" I sang the Rocky theme and did some shadow boxing, stopping only when the shushing noises from the other moviegoers got too insistent.

I sneered the word 'Malkovich', sat back in a complacent pose, and followed that with an excited: "I just realised!"
"Shh! What?"
"That was my 100th conversation victory over you!"
Jen disputed many parts of that sentence, but it was true. My conversation record was 100 wins, 2 defeats (I let Jen win on her birthday and Christmas).

To celebrate, I treated myself to a cigar. I normally gloat via pizza, beer, or ice cream, but once every 7 years I have a cigar.

The best bit was that I got to use the Wood Saw. My project to use all the functions of the Swiss Army Knife is all very well in theory, but I neither whittle nor own a shotgun, so in a normal world I have little need of a saw.

Sawing a cigar is messy but effective. Look:

By the way, the cigar was absolutely awful. It stank up my flat for days and I had a cough for a week.

Worst four Euros I've ever spent.

Function 6 - Bottle Opener

Watching the American version of House of Cards, Jen said, "Is that John Malkovich? It is, isn't it?"

It wasn't.

One of these men is John Malkovich.

After taunting her an appropriate amount, I celebrated with a beer:

(Notice I'm drinking an American beer there. I mostly drink German wheat beer, but wanted to try that Sam Adams stuff because it's sold in my local supermarket. Swiss products are normally superb, but the two most available beers are called Feldschlossen and Calanda. Both taste like they were brewed in a sock. Avoid.)

Function 2 - Small Blade (Again)
Jen wanted to spend some time with me, and I wanted to play Master of Orion on my computer. As a compromise, I let her lie on the sofa where she could look at me and ask if I was winning.
Every half hour I checked if she wanted a cup of tea or whatever. "I want a treat," she said in a whiney little girl voice.
"How about an apple?" I said in my talking-to-a-toddler voice.
"Meh," she said. "That's not fun."
"What if I carve a picture of a horse into it?"
"Yes, okay."