Thursday, May 22, 2014

100 Happy Days - Part 3

I'm taking photos of things that make me happy. I explain why in part one, here. There's also a part two.

Day 15

My friend sent me an email with a photo of a baby. I thought that was odd until some time later when I understood that it was his baby, which had just been born.
I don't see the point of babies myself but I knew my friend would be having one of the highest moments of his life, which was a happy thought.

Looks just like his dad.

Day 16

Once a week I fill a USB stick with easy-to-watch British shows for Jen to fall asleep to. They can't be too scary or she'll claw me and fidget through the night, but they can't be too banal or she will whinge instead of nodding off.
Mediocre police drama 'Identity' should have met my needs perfectly, but Jen watched every second like it was a funny dog video. I realised my mistake - if I want her to fall asleep I shouldn't pick shows starring Aidan Gillen.

"You know he's tiny, right? All actors are tiny."
"I'm just not sleepy is all," she said.
"He's practically a dwarf. That's why he was in Game of Thrones."
"Although," she said, ignoring my part of the conversation, "he certainly has something." That's Jen's understated way of admitting a dude is sexy as sin.
"He has something all right," I said. "Tiny legs."
It made me happy to think how much taller I was than Aidan Gillen. However much wavy hair he might have and however many leather jackets he might squeak around in, however many accents he might have mastered and however many awards he might win, I, Andrew Girardin, would always be considerably taller than him. He probably wouldn't even come up to my shoulders! Lol!

In the process of typing up this happy moment, I discovered he is 1.78m, which is quite tall. But I still TOWER over him. I would LOOM over him. If you think two centimetres isn't enough to loom from, you're wrong.


Day 17

Students enjoy hearing about my extensive charity work and are always trying to drag tales of philanthropy out of me.
Student: "So when should I use the past perfect?"
Me: "What's that? My charity work? Let's talk about my happiness project instead. Oh! We can do both. Last year I donated money to a charity that saves cows from slaughter. There's a video of the cows being released from their barn-prison and they look happy and it makes you happy."

Watch the video for a little burst of happiness. Skip the first 50 seconds if you can't bear to hear people talking about cows in German.

Day 18

I went to a party and talked to strangers and I didn't create any awkward silences by being weird. So that was good.
And then I met an Austrian who told us how proud of Conchita Wurst he was. Without pausing for breath he then told the sickest joke I've ever heard said out loud. 

Conchita Wurst

"A couple have just had a baby. There were complications so they haven't seen it yet. The doctor leads them into a room where all the babies are without legs. 'It's worse than that. Keep going.' He takes them into the next room. There, the babies have no legs and no arms. 'Sorry but it's worse.' They go into a room where the babies are just heads. 'Sorry but it's worse.' Finally, they are in a room where the baby is just a flap of skin with an eye. 'Bad news,' the doctor says, 'your baby is blind.'"

The joke was told with tremendous relish. Whether you found it funny or unfunny, silly or offensive, know that I had the exact same reaction as you.

Day 19

Switzerland's famous 'Valley of the Vegetables'

I had a great day visiting the birthplace of Switzerland. Switzerland has a birthplace? Yes, it does. It's called 'das Ruetli', which means 'the carrot'.
Quick history lesson: in 1291 three dudes got together and ate carrots, symbolising the need to form a confederation and vote about asylum seekers four times a year.
It's a stupendously pretty region - snow-capped mountains, Lake Lucerne, paddlewheelers - but when we got to the Ruetli itself I couldn't see any special monument to mark the spot.
"Where's the thing?" I asked.
"Oh, it's there," said Jen.
"Behind that field?"
"No, the field is it. That's it. It's just a meadow."
"Just a meadow. Huh." I looked around. "Is it where they grew the carrots?"

What's orange and sounds like a parrot?

The picture shows Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego coming together to create Switzerland. Not pictured is Jen screaming at me saying 'Ruetli doesn't mean carrot! Stop talking about carrots!'

Day 20

The day started with a massage. 

I occasionally have achilles tendon pain and since Jen knows one of the best physios in Switzerland, I thought I'd try and get it fixed. This was my second appointment and I knew what to expect - my calf would be shredded, pulverised, and ultimately remoulded into the perfect specimen of a muscle.
And so it was.
It's the kind of pain that you hate in the moment of its manifestation, but love in the time before and after. Especially after - I didn't walk, but floated around on a tiny cloud of happy pain.

Day 21

Jen woke up early, and as she always does, woke me up to tell me she was awake.
"I'm awake! Oh, frabjous day!"
"Christ." I pulled the covers over my head.
"Do you want a cup of tea?" she asked.
"Yes." I pulled the cover down and switched from grumpy face to manipulating-a-woman face. "And a sandwich."
"Don't have time to go all the way to the sandwich shop and back," she said. "But I could post it in the mailbox and buzz the door to let you know its there, saving me literally 15 seconds."
"Aw," I said, "That's incredibly sweet and thoughtful and I'm lucky to have you. This will go on my blog as today's happy thing."
Sadly Jen didn't hear me - turns out I had merely grunted, stuck my thumb back in my mouth, and slept on till I heard the doorbell. Sandwich was nice though.

Progress after 21 days:

Mood: Somewhere between pathetic and apathetic
Compliments: "I hate telling you stories."
Optimism: Schmoptimism.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

100 Happy Days - Part 2

I'm taking photos of things that make me happy. I explain why in part one, here.

100 happy days list - hashtag 100


I was playing the new South Park game on my Xbox. It's like playing an episode of the TV show - it's slick, sick, and uproarious. Apart from some minor glitches and two incredibly frustrating moments, I have to give it top marks. No. Really.

One of the many, MANY, laugh-out-loud moments is when you finally get a passport and can go to Canada. Once there, the game switches from being hi-res, hi-def, lush 4k all-American beauty:

to stuck-in-the-80s backwards-backwoods-Canadian retro:

Complete with 8-bit music and sound effects. It's so gloriously silly it made me laugh for close to a minute. And then another minute when I met the dickish 'Prince of Canada'.


I discovered a series of videos where elderly actors recreate puerile internet conversations. The acting is brilliant. Imagine two craggy-faced old thespians using their RSC training and natural gravitas to deliver lines like, "Nicki Minaj is fake? Not as fake as Lil Kim's face." Or "Do you not know how completely mentally fucktarded you are being right now?"

I've put a link at the bottom of this post. If I put the link here you wouldn't read the rest of the text. 

DAY 10

Today I completed the South Park game. The ending was monumental. A CIA agent strips naked, one of your allies turns traitor, and the plot gets so silly, postmodern, and labyrinthine that Morgan Freeman has to appear to make sense of it all.

Kyle asks why Freeman's always the one who has to explain convoluted plots. Mr. Freeman replies, "Because every time I show up and explain something, I earn a freckle." And a new one appears on his cheek.

At which point Jen (my chick) comes into the room to ask if I'm laughing at the game or practicing my sea lion imitation.

Bonus happiness: I spelled labyrinthine without a red line appearing underneath.

DAY 11

Anyone new to the blog (click on the right for the Asterix links) will be glad to learn that I'm from Manchester and live thousands of miles away in Zurich. Zurich is superior to home in some ways: Train timetables are sold in the non-fiction section; a teenager pushing a pram is more likely to be the au pair than the grandmother; and there's nowhere that sells the Daily Mail.

Manchester wins on football, music, politeness, queuing, swagger, and - importantly - curries. Almost all Indian restaurants in Zurich are terrible, charmless, and overpriced, and with every bad curry experience I feel ever more homesick.

Thankfully Jen knows an Indian restaurant so good it might even get some customers if it were located in the Curry Mile.

Today we treated ourselves to a delivery from there and Jen announced that the 'pompadoms' were next to the garlic naan. She calls papadums that because I call them that, and I call them that because my family call them that. It's Jen's way of making me feel closer to home.

Dammit - here come the feels.

DAY 12

Today Manchester City won the Premier League. I'm a United fan, but I was happy that City won instead of Liverpool. When I tried to explain why to Jen she shook her head at me in a very female way.

"Why don't you support your team instead of hoping other teams lose?" She thought she was being reasonable. Amazing.
Perhaps she is too female and too Swiss to understand. "Look at this," I said, pointing at my screen and trying to communicate a thing that is hard to verbalise. "Look! That's City's captain, Vincent Kompany. He's amazing. He was supposed to go and pick up the trophy so they could start the confetti and fireworks. But he made them wait. He was waving at someone to do something. I couldn't work out who or what, until he practically dragged a bunch of reserve players onto the podium. They only play ten minutes here or there, but Kompany doesn't see them as extras. They play their part; they're family. They win and lose together."
I was on the edge of man-tears after delivering this speech.
Jen's reply was, "Who's that tall guy there? He has terrible posture."

DAY 13

My students sometimes do hilarious things, such as paying me to teach them. When they make mistakes with grammar or vocabulary I don't normally laugh, but in rare cases it's so funny I'm still grinning about it hours later on the train home.

Today I was trying to help someone fill in the missing word from a sentence. The word she needed was 'freshness'. She had 'fresh' and knew she had to add something to the end. "Freshment?" she said. "No," I said, wondering how I could guide her towards the suffix '-ness'. "What's the name of the monster from Scotland?" "Nessie." "There you go." She frowned and I could see her piecing the components together in her mind. "So... freshie."

But my favourite mistake happened a few weeks ago. It was a simple task. They had to look at this picture:

And change 'heavy' into 'heavier'. The second weight is 'heavier' than the first weight. Easy. Question 3 was the same but with the word 'slow':

My student wrote the amazing new word 'snailer.'

DAY 14


Progress after 14 days:

Mood: Flabby.
Compliments: "You're unbearable." "God, I'd hate to be one of your students."
Optimism: Meh.

Click here for part 3.


Thursday, May 08, 2014

100 Happy Days - Part 1

What is this 100 happy days thing?

Simply - 100 happy days in a row.

There's a website ( that encourages people to take photos of things that make them happy - one a day for 100 days. The idea is that people who habitually take time to notice happy moments end up in a better mood, get more compliments from people, and become more optimistic.

I'm going to do the challenge and write about it here on my blog. Um... obviously.


There was a lot to be happy about on the first day. First, I bought and devoured the new Michael Lewis book 'Flashboys.' It's the first time I've read a book in a day since I got a smartphone.

The next good thing was watching idiots try to get into the Post Office across the road from my flat. It was closed for half a day so the employees could go and watch the burning of a giant snowman. Every two minutes someone strode towards the automatic doors, nearly bumped their head, peered inside, looked at the opening hours, looked bewildered, then walked away, slowly, defeated. And every time the whole scene was played out to the sound of my laughter.

Note - My girlfriend Jen has agreed to recreate some scenes so that I don't have to put myself in dangerous situations such as taking photos of frustrated morons while giggling.


Swiss people on public transport behave with such a sense of entitlement that I have made it my personal mission to tut and shake my head at each and every one of them until they learn to behave.

My main complaint is that they sit on the aisle seat so that no-one can sit on the window seat, or sit on the window seat and put their bag on the aisle seat. Heaven forbid they should have to sit next to someone!

Today I made one of the aisle-dicks stand up and let me past while I tutted and shook my head at him. I didn't take a photo because I didn't realise it had made me happy until later. So here's a photo of a random douchebag:


Today was the day one of my oldest friends suggested I do the 100 happy days thing. You might wonder how I started the project two days before I heard about it. Answer - I can do what I want. Leave me alone.

What was today's happy thing? Probably being thankful that all my oldest friends live in different countries and can't sabotage my existence like they used to.

Case study: Once, when I was unavoidably late to Business Studies, my friend David Baker told the teacher I was doing it deliberately as a challenge to her authority. When I got there she told me to go away. I was bemused until the next day when David told me what he'd done. His language was apologetic, but his face was smug.

But that's all water under the bridge and I've completely forgotten the whole incident.


I saw this near my flat:


I got home seconds before a biblical deluge. My flat was warm and dry like toast at a lactose-intolerant buffet. (I just pitched that simile to Jen and she said 'They could have margarine.' It's like living with Rainman.)

I made a cup of my Britishest tea and drank it while looking out my window at all the people who lied when they were 17.

And I was, briefly, happy.

Google Travis if you don't get it. That includes you, Jen.


Jen said she would do an hour on the exercise bike while I was writing in my bedroom. After half an hour the bike went silent, and instead I heard some weird grunting noises. Is she doing what it sounds like she's doing...? I wondered, and went to investigate.

As I suspected, she was doing Qi Gong. She was bent over with her thong visible for the whole world to see. "It's not called Qi Thong!" I said, and laughed like a mong. But a happy mong.

Here's a photo of Jen bent over with her thong riding high:

Not allowed, it turns out.


I was all gassy from eating pizza and drinking alcohol-free beer. My stomach was distended and the pressure was building. "Jen," I said, "I'm going to do some pooping soon if you want to use the bathroom."

"No," she said. She was lying on the sofa wrapped in a blanket like ET. "Can't move. Too tired."

"Okay," I said. "But I'm going to need some help getting this party started. I need you to poke my belly and yell 'release the kraken!'"

I'm not sure if she replied - I was too busy laughing.

Progress after 7 days:

Mood: Unchanged
Compliments: Normal volume/quality - "You've been watching a lot of Dr. House? Well, you would like that show, wouldn't you?"
Optimism: Unchanged