Sunday, 31 March 2013

Seasonal signage

We were in Zagreb, Croatia, on Thursday and Friday, celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary. Wandering through Trg bana Jelačića – the city's central square in a similar way to what Trafalgar Square is to London – when we spied a seasonal sign. Perched above a mobile phone ad encouraging us to “Embrace life” and a white goods' ad claiming its products are “The smart choice for 280 million users worldwide” was a digital billboard of Jesus*.

“Happy Easter” it said. “The Lord Jesus Christ, Victor over death and Satan”. It was the contrast between style of the artwork, admittedly not to my taste, and the uncompromising statement that made me snap this photo. I thought for all its reputation as a edgy cultural capital I couldn't see this message playing well in London. But then I checked online and discovered Trafalgar Square hosted a full-scale Passion play this year. Somehow that discovery was more reassuring than finding any number of unnecessary chocolate eggs!


(*The CIA estimate Jesus has 2.1 billion followers worldwide.)

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A new playground!

Yesterday we enjoyed exploring a “new” playground - Ski centar "Raduša". We'd been intrigued by the pictures on Facebook and the reality didn't disappoint. I had been looking for one sunny day of snowboarding this season and we finally got it! As ski centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina go this must be one of the newest; according to an article on a Croatian ski website it's only in its third year of operating. From our perspective it makes an appealing alternative to some of the more established resorts.

I know people look for different things in their winter sports experiences. For some the après-ski activities are more important than the slopes. At Raduša the après-ski activity is driving home! It's not a resort in that sense, but what it offers is access to unspoilt countryside. There's no loud music, no corporate sponsorship banners, just a mountain top covered with snow, a few well placed lifts and some nicely groomed runs. All that and a decent restaurant at the bottom and a cafe with panoramic views at the top. A powder day here has to be a priority for next season!   

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A year ago today

On the 5th March 2012 I took my newly purchased first snowboard up our nearest mountain for its first run out on snow. Why do I remember this? Well, partly, it was one of those moments I never imagined that would happen; such moments have a habit of sticking in the memory. Yes, I was excited, and that could be part of it, but the more prosaic explanation is that as I sat on the snow, strapping my boots into the bindings, I noticed the board length: 153cm. To English eyes that was clearly code for 1st used on the 5th of the 3rd. I knew then I wouldn't forget the date.

Whatever I did that day it's certain it was not epic snowboarding. I had hunted around Youtube trying to find tutorial videos that made sense. Good ones seemed few and far between. I tried to remember what I'd watched and practise things in some kind of logical order. Fast forward ten months and I was on a slope in Sarajevo getting logical, structured instruction. I'd like to say that in a few days I was snowboarding like a pro. I'd be lying. The more I practised the more I ached. I knew what I should be doing, I got to the point I could no longer convince my tired legs to cooperate.

Since then I've averaged a couple of snowboarding sessions a week. I'm still not a pro but I'm a lot closer to being able to claim to be competent. Given my age – late 30s – the few extra pounds I'm carrying and my general level of fitness I'm pretty happy with my progress. I've watched younger, trimer, fitter people take the same instruction I had and get it all working for them in far less time. Having no fear helps! If you're reading all this thinking you'd love to get into snowboarding then I'd recommend the series of videos I shot with my instructor. There are 10 videos that together will teach you all the basics you need to know.

I don't want to over-sell so I should add these are not the most exciting snowboard videos online. I love the ones full of mad tricks and flying down impossibly steep mountains. They are great to watch but they won't teach you to ride. These videos will. I'm tempted to say they are one of the best presentations of snowboard basics you'll find online. Trust me. I followed these steps and it worked for me. And if it worked for me I'm sure it can work for you...you could be snowboarding in two days!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

You win some

On Saturday Jajce's Lavovi (Lions) bit back at the BiH Floorball League tournament in Tuzla. At least they did in the first game they played. The last time the Lavovi played Gladijator from Prijedor the game was a 4-4 draw. This time we won by a surprisingly comfortable 6-2 margin.


Anyone who read our post about the first tournament will probably have noticed the kit change since then. Out go the 70s-style short-shorts of the hand-me-down outfits and in comes a freshly purchased strip with the team badge on the front and “Floorball Club Lavovi Jajce” in big text on the back between the shoulder blades.

Sadly new kit and the feel-good factor of getting a first tournament win wasn't enough to guarantee a result in our second game of the day. I never played enough competitive sport in the UK to speak authoritatively on cultural differences but I was surprised that on a day when the lowest scoring game featured six goals our team's faces clearly showed they thought the second game was lost after going one-nil down after five minutes. After that, unsurprisingly, a few tempers were lost on the way to losing the game. But today in training it was all smiles and positive play - the Lions live to roar again!