My Dad makes his big screen debut....

The Woman in Black is spine-tinglingly terrifying - think demon phantom wreaking revenge on parents and children after she was separated from her child in life; horrifying scenes of children being lured to their death; and a haunted house with menacing toys - dolls with empty eyes; monkeys with eyes that move unawares. I knew all of this, because I had previously seen the even-more-terrifying stage version (steel your nerves before seeing that one!) But I did have one reason to put myself through the terror - my Dad is an extra in it!


Leafy promenades in Bregenz ...

The first thing that struck me about Bregenz were its leafy promenades. On the lake front, voluptuous chestnuts jostle for space with blossom trees. Below the dense canopy, flower beds inject colour to the otherwise vivid green lake front. Above on the 'Hausberg' Pfaender, hillside cannot be seen for forest. And along residential streets, oak trees give the houses privacy. Tim and I spent the recent long weekend in this leafy wonderland. Two nights in the functional 3* Hotel Garni Bodensee were plenty to explore Vorarlberg's dainty capital, with a population of only 28,000.

Perhaps best known for its Festspiele, held in July and August, Bregenz reminds of a seaside town, with its manicured lawns, flower beds and promenades. Lake Constance is indeed large enough that I could pretend I was beside the sea - the lake is too long to see clearly from one end to the other. Otherwise quiet streets came to life with the New Orleans Festival, a jazz and blues event that was held over the weekend. I wasn't terribly impressed by the performances (they featured lots of copies of mainstream pop songs), but the festival made for a lively atmosphere - if only Austria would ban smoking in public places though, because I am sick to the back teeth (literally) of having to breathe in so much smoke when at an outdoor concert, bar, etc. Am I allowed to say it strikes me as slightly primitive?

Saturday afternoon was beautifully sunny and warm, so we picnicked beside the lake before taking the cable car up the Pfaender. From the top you can see just how big the lake is and, in the opposite direction, the vivid green beauty of the Bregenzerwald mountains. There is an alpine zoo at the top of Pfaender (featuring marmots, wild boars and red deer) which we explored before walking down. That evening we ate outside at the Wirtshaus am See - lovely food and lakeside views (same problem with smokers).

From bright sunshine to stormy skies: Sunday was spent battling the elements while walking beside the lake to the Nature Reserve at Mehrerach. With the wind whipping up dramatic waves against a steely sky, it really felt like being at the English seaside. In the afternoon we climbed up St. Martin's Tower, a tower and chapel with frescoes dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. The museum was slightly dreary and all in German, but from the top floor there were lovely views of the quaint Upper Town - the medieval quarter of Bregenz. Entry to the old town is through a stone archway, in which a 1950s antiques dealer hung a mummified fish (which still hangs there - creepy!).

After our exertions we enjoyed cake in Theater Cafe on Kornmarktplatz - without doubt the best cake shop in town. I had a nut nougat cake - little more than slices of nutty cake glued together with a rich, Nutella-like substance: heaven in a slice. We ate that evening in another good restaurant, Pizzeria Trattoria Toscana, where the pizzas were tasty. Luckily for our last day we were granted with sunny spells and biked to Lindau, a town on an island across the lake. It is only 10km from Bregenz along concrete paths, so doesn't feel far. Lindau is pretty but touristy (you have to pay to use the public toilets). It features dramatic architecture in the old lighthouse, statue of a lion that greets boats entering the harbour and the old town hall. It was refreshing to spend the weekend in Austria, a country that still feels familiar to me and Tim, and that always looks pretty no matter what the weather.

Creating new from old ...

My creative side took control at the weekend when - upon realising that I don't have enough space in my wardrobe but still have nothing to wear - I decided that turning unwanted items into beautiful home furnishings would be a practical solution. Killing two birds with one stone (Prices are very high in Switzerland and I needed space in my wardrobe), I set about turning a raggy cashmere jumper and an ancient silk dress into cushions. The colours and textures of both garments, I thought, would contribute to the look I am aiming for in our sitting room. Creating a pretty flat is no easy task when you live where we do; but nobody wants to be the bad workman who blames his tools, so I am doing my best.

What started as a burst of rash, cheap purchases in Ikea (necessity upon arrival in Zurich with nothing; not knowing how long we would be staying) is slowly becoming more coherent. The picture frames and furniture will never match as I would like them to, as they were bought separately and without much thought. However, with the help of Country Living magazine and creative thinking on my part, I am slowly amassing a collection of pretty accessories that lend coherence. The cushions, I feel, will look beautiful set against the charming etching of a Puffa Fish we purchased on Mull (one of our more treasured pieces, it was created by Helen Mortley - ) and a dainty, pale blue heart (bought in French-inspired interiors shop L'Air du Sud, based in Horgen and Feldmeilen on Lake Zurich) I have hung over the corner of our grand, white mirror. And what's more, it gave me an excuse to spend an afternoon sewing - which frankly, I would be happy to get lost in all day every day. What a charming way to spend my time.

Under, over, under ... What was that knitting rhyme again?

Learning to knit is like learning to read all over again: it seems complicated until it all falls into place, and one stitch follows another to create a pretty piece. The 'falling into place' aspect is not so easy though, as I have discovered while knitting the 'Cath Kidston Striped Scarf'. I have read the kit's instructions and watched knitting tutorials on YouTube but my efforts are still leading to a rather lumpy, uneven stretch of fabric. Just as putting letters in the wrong place when one starts out with a new language, my knitting is a story of perseverance. And persevering I am. I used to be able to knit, and textiles is my greatest passion after writing, so I ought to be able to add this traditional skill to my portfolio. Besides, it is a charming way to spend an afternoon - and practise other skills at the same time. I have French radio on in the background (but in hindsight, listening to radio based on the Cote d'azur when it hasn't stopped raining all day in Zurich is perhaps not the best way of lifting one's mood...) Now, under, over, under, out ... or something like that ...

Two glorious weeks in the UK ...

Doing exams is never much fun, but the necessity of doing my NCTJ Media Law exam in England persuaded me to spend two weeks at home having finished work at Swiss News. Nothing much ever changes, but I like that sense of familiarity and being surrounded by my childhood things that remind me I still have a home and am not stranded abroad away from all I know and love. Dad and Elsa welcomed me home with a delicious dinner at the award-winning The Star in Sancton. Gourmet pub food is a perfect way to start a holiday in England.

The sun shone almost all the time, which was a lovely relief after the months of grey skies in lowland Switzerland. While I spent much of the first few days revising, my exam was soon over (fingers crossed awaiting the result) and it enabled me to spend a nice day in Leeds doing a spot of shopping. I managed to spend four days with Mum in Lochranza on Arran, where I am always amazed by the cerulean blue of the sea and the wilderness of the landscape within the island's perimeters. Though temperatures were brisk and each day brought heavy showers, between the rain the sun shone brightly. I awoke each morning to the bleating of lambs, taking shelter on Mum's golf course away from the frosty fells.

Mum and I did some fantastic walks, including one from Lochranza to the real Fairy Dell, a leafy gorge hidden in the hillside. You enter beneath a boulder and a vivid green world of low-slung branches, mossy trunks and abundant primroses opens up. It is easy to imagine fairies dancing here and, in homage to the area's namesake, a miniature bench has been installed. Another walk took us high into the hills above Lochranza, to the ancient hill fort. The route up is muddy and tiring, but the rewards are worth it. From the top you get the most wonderful panorama of Lochranza Bay, the Kintyre peninsula and beyond to the Paps of Jura. On my final day, we walked through a wooded glen via the impressive Glenashdale Falls to Giants Graves, an Iron Age fort. Not only can you feel an exciting sense of history in the air, you can also enjoy some of the finest views to Holy Isle.

Another highlight was watching Scottish folk-rock band Skerryvore perform at Lochranza Village Hall - they put on a fantastic, energetic performance and by the end of the concert almost all the audience were dancing with their hands in the air. Following my visit to Arran I spent a few days back at home in Yorkshire. I enjoyed flicking through old photo albums, attempting to play my (very out of tune) violin and catching up with my good friend Paula over lunch at the Cheese Shop in Howden. It was lovely to spend time with my family and wander around familiar countryside again. Dad, Will, Elsa and I spent a lovely, sunny day at the coast, eating fish and chips at Whitby before walking the clifftop path from Kettleness to Runswick Bay. As always, my stay in the UK was too brief but as Tim and I have several trips planned there this year I have plenty to look forward to.

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