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On 1st March we moved to a new blogging system.

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Monday, 07 December 2009

Something about what I've been up to and where I've been up to

Hi, everyone. I'm the one with the beard in the rogues' gallery at the top of the teacher blog page. My last appearance here was at the beginning of 2008, but I haven't changed much since then, so that photo's still a good likeness. The hair's a bit greyer, probably, and there's a bit less of it, I dare say. But let's not dwell on that!

It's good to see some familiar names among the replies to the December blogs that have appeared so far; there's obviously a hard core of loyal followers!

So, what have I been up to? Well, this and that, one thing and another. My wife, who teaches in our local primary school here in Poland, isn't working this year, which has given the two of us a lot more opportunity to travel than we usually have, and we've just got back from a three-month stay in Switzerland. I was teaching two days a week on a teacher-training course in Geneva, plus doing some on-line work, but we still had quite a bit of time to explore Geneva and its surroundings. We also went on some longer trips into the Alps.

You might remember that I'm a big railway fan, so you won't be surprised to hear that mountain railways were an important part of these trips. One was up to the Jungfraujoch, which is the highest railway station in Europe, at 3454 metres. The highest section of the route runs in a long, long, long tunnel, and when you come out at the top you're surrounded by mountain tops and you're looking down onto glaciers.

Another trip through equally amazing scenery was to Gornergrat. This is the highest line in the open - i.e. not in tunnel - and reaches 3089 metres.

The railways themselves are real feats of engineering, climbing up the mountainsides at hair-raising gradients - well, actually the gradients seem even more hair-raising on the way down!

Now we're back to horizontal living, at sea level, and with a railway that only operates during the summer.

That's all for now, folks. I'll be back next week. Best wishes to all readers, old and new.

Jonathan Marks

A rogues' gallery was originally a set of photos of criminals which were kept by the police, but nowadays it's used as a humorous expression for a group photo, e.g. a school class or a group of people who work together.

If a photo of someone really looks like the person (and they don't always, do they?) we say it's a good likeness.

The expression I dare say (some people write I daresay) is only remotely connected with the basic meaning of the word 'dare'. It simply means 'probably'.

The verb 'dwell' is a rather unusual, literary equivalent of 'live' (in the sense of 'live in a certain place') but dwell on (or dwell upon) is more common, and means to spend a lot of time - too much time, maybe - thinking or talking about something unpleasant.

The hard core is the sub-group of people within a group or organisation who are most enthusiastic or dedicated - the ones who are prepared to devote eight days a week to their profession or hobby, etc.

What have you been up to? is an informal way of asking someone what they've been doing - for example, when you haven't met them for a long time. There are also variations on the question, such as Have you been up to anything interesting lately? Been up to anything exciting recently?

The phrases this and that and one thing and another are both ways of saying 'various things' or often 'nothing in particular, nothing of great interest'.

If you're a big fan of something or someone, it means you're really, really keen. I'm a big jazz fan / a big fan of jazz.

Hair-raising means frightening, but maybe exciting as well.


Hi, Jonathan. If you are a railway fan and have been taking the train in Switzerland I think you've been able to appreciate the Swiss way of dealing with train traffic. I was going from France to Zurich airport to fetch my mother and I see huge differences between the railway companies in the two countries. In Switzerland many trains go regularly. I mean, if you want to go from A to B there might be a train at 8.13, next one would be at 9.13, then 10.13, then 11.13 and so on. It would be clearly indicated from which platform you should take your train. There's no problem in buying a ticket. In France everything is different. You can never rely there will be a train because of strikes. You are not told from where the train leaves until twenty minutes before the departure. They say it's part of their fight against terrorists. But the railway responsibles didn't tell passangers, at least not me, the train had been threated by a bomb until I after a 400 km trip wanted to get money back because the train was delayed. Not their fault, but seemingly it never occured to them it would have been fair to inform passangers about the threat so that the passengers could choose to take the train or not. I like using the train - in other countries than France.

Jonathan, I loved your hard core of loyal follower’s idiom, although I cannot say that I fulfill the expression entirely. Your railway travels sounded fascinating.

Hello Jonathan! It is always a pleasure to read your journey reports. One of my favourite train journey was going from Munich to Verona. I would love to travel by train more often. Alas, our railway system is not so good. The regional trains are almost always late, packed and dirty. The situation slightly changes if you have to catch a long-distance train, but it is expensive.Great to hear from you again. Have a good week ahead!!

Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.

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