Monday, March 29, 2010

So long, farewell, auf wiedesehen, goodbye

Don't panic!

It's only auf wiedersehen (which means until we see each other again)

I'm off for a whole week (8 days actually) to New York (New York, so good they named it twice)

I have the whole itinerary planned...although some might change - other things are fixed, 'cos I got the tickets sorted out on Friday (isn't the internet a wonderful thing?)

So there's a bike tour of Central Park on Simon's birthday, shopping, the Empire State Building, shopping, Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, shopping, lots of museums, did I mention shopping? And a BIG surprise for Simon, but I can't tell you 'cos he reads this sometimes and I do want it to be a good present -it's very hard to find fun things to give him, but I think I've pulled it off this year!!

So, be good while I'm away & I promise not to bore you with ALL my holiday pics when I'm back.

Have a nice day!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Snaps 7

Look what I found in a sleepy little German village!
I want it in my garden.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring is sprung

It's official:

Spring is here, finally!

After a long and very cold (for here anyway) winter, that seemed to be never ending we've just had a week in which the temperature got over 20C, which was just a bit too much really for March, even the back end of March.

It was weird to have been wearing boots, jacket, scarf and gloves (never a hat) one week and then the next to wear just a T-shirt (well, not 'just' a T-shirt, but you get the idea) and to think to myself 'hmmm, flipflops?'
It was only the thought that a pedicure is desperately needed after months of being snuggly in thick socks before my feet are allowed out in public view that stopped the thought in its formation. Nude toe nails on display? I don't think so, I'd feel naked!

The temperature really did get so high though, it was quite odd and almost surreal, there should be a natual sequence to nature and with the longer winter and then the sudden blast of heat everything is out of kilter, my crocuses were just trying to show their faces when they were rudely pushed aside by the tulips and they will probably have been bulldosed out of the way by my daffs while I'm away next week (tee hee).
This is a shame, much as I like the warm weather, I planted all those bulbs for a reason (I'm not a natural gardner - that should make my mom laugh) because I wanted to see all the resulting flowers and now that's unlikely to happen.

I don't want to jump straight to summer, spring is such a wonderful season, with the warmth of the sun but the cool air still, it's so refreshing (especially with all the necessary rain that is so much a part of spring) watching nature come back to life; the lawn is looking green again (well, green with yellow patches and bald bits - but that's what happens when you have a dog with acidic wee) the weeds are growing vigorously (damn them, weed killer is pretty ineffective I've found - even the stuff I illegally brought back from the UK with me (they don't sell it much here, and we have to sneak out in the dead of night to use it so the neighours don't notice) and scraping them out from between the slabs is hard and they still come back, think I need to invest in a weed burner like the crafty Germans use, that looks like fun, might be a way of getting the man about the house to do the weeding...

There are other signs of spring being here - the birds are going crazy, the ticks are out and about in the woods (fun) and all the cafés and eiscafés have got their outdoor seating arranged and being utilised - not that the Germans don't sit outside in the middle of winter (they do) but this week there wasn't a spare seat to be had in the main street here, everyone was sitting in the sun drinking coffee, eating ice cream and smoking, and my son and his friends have had the water guns out.

Yep, spring is sprung.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


...never cease to amaze me.

I've got used to;
- their argumentative nature (just)
- the need to count out small (and I mean 1 cent and 2 cent pieces) change to pay their supermarket bill
- the godawful tv (I just don't watch any of it apart from the Klumster - but that's another story)
- the staring as they walk past my house/see my dog/hear an English accent
- the cherry red hair colouring favoured by ladies of a certain age
- the so clean they must be sterile cars (as opposed to my own dirt wagon)

But today? Today they took my breath away.

Thursday is Pilates day, Frau Qual, though I complain about her every week, is a nice lady, and always asks at the end of every class how we found it...this week she started off asking if we'd had any problems after last week's class, which threw me slightly (a lot of my German comprehension is based on them saying something in context that I'm expecting...)
Then at the end of the class we had the same again, any problems during the class and the one who always whines about something said nothing (unless I wasn't listening...) the other one who always whines about having a headache after a class muttered about kopfschmerzen (headache) and the other 5 of us smiled nicely and said we were just fine and dandy thankyou very much, so far so good, happy easter and tschuss (ciao).

Rebecca and I stood outside in the sun (shock, horror, gasp) gossiping (as you do) when Carolyn who runs the place came running over to ask whether we would be continuing after the hols because some of the others had complained about Frau Qual and so there would be a change of problem we said, although we were surprised.

A little later and we were still gossiping and Frau Qual drove past, pausing next to us to tell us what we already knew, that 2 ladies had complained about her and so she'd been booted off the course, we expressed our dismay to her as we'd had no problem, apparently one of the complaints was that 90 minutes was too long for such a class...

I knew they (Germans) took complaining seriously but this?

Wow. Kind of puts you off ever being a service provider to any German!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Magic Number

Three, I think is the magic number.

How do you count from 1 to 5 on your fingers?

Where do you start?

Is number 1 your thumb or your forefinger?

If you're British as opposed to continental (I had thought this anomaly was just a German thing but having spoken to a French friend I've discovered that they (the French) count the way the Germans do, so until I've had the chance to do a full survey of all Europeans I'm assuming it's a continental thing and only the channel prevented the spread to the UK of incorrect counting...

So on the left we have the way the British do counting on their fingers and on the right the way the continentals do it - which one are you?

One (clearly)





Mad eh?

We first became aware of this difference when children show 3 fingers, those who've been here from too early an age use 2 fingers and a thumb, those who know better use 3 proper digits. But why is there this difference in counting? A theory was suggested to me by an ex maths teacher at the weekend but I have to admit to some scepticism...he says that the British way is the right way (well he would, being the holder of a British passport) because when you finally show 5 your hand forms a V between the thumb and the rest of the hand, which as everyone knows is the Roman numeral for 5...sound reasoning I think but then he let himself down when he tried to explain that 10 would be the 2 hands held up edge to edge forming an X shape...if he'd left it at the 5 I'd have been convinced...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lost in Tranlsation II

I had a funny conversation with a German friend last week.

D speaks very good English - albeit sprinkled with Americanisms, due to spending 5 years living in Canada (she says sidewalk for pavement and pants when I'm quite sure she means trousers and not knickers - but I don't comment, afterall if my German were as good and fluent as her English I'd be a very happy bunny)

We meet up once or twice a month (it used to be once a week but the crazy cow has gone back to work!) and go for a longish walk with Logan and then drink coffee and eat cake - it's a hard, hard life being a hausfrau.

So last Friday we were walking and talking (in English - that's one reason she likes to walk with me, it's not just the exercise or the friendship - I'm free English practice) I said how Ben was growing taller and taller by the day (or so it seems, I swear I'm going to stop feeding him soon, he's an inch short of me and boy will I know it when he can finally look me straight in the eye, before I know it he'll be towering over me, my little boy...) anyway I commented that he'll very soon be a teenager. His birthday is in May and he'll be 13.

D expressed surprise, surely he was already a teenager?
No, I said, he's 12, he'll be 13 in May, then he'll be a teenager.
Still a kind of confused look on D's face.
So I took pity and explained in s.i.m.p.l.e terms the word TEENager and the idea that you're a TEENager between the ages of thirTEEN and nineTEEN, that's why you have the word TEENager...
The penny dropped, I could literally see the lightbulb go on in her head - DING!

Germans, these mad, crazy people, seem to use the word teenager to describe someone from the age of maybe 11 upwards...but no, as I told D, they might act like a teenager but they're not actually teenagers, for that privilege they've got to wait till their thirteenth birthday, in my book anyway.

These Germans are bonkers!

Monday, March 22, 2010

One extreme to another

My Sunday started well, managed not to get out of bed until 7.30, I'd have slept longer (as the children had been threatened with loss of a limb if they woke me) but Simon thoughtfully called from Kuala Lumper, I complained that he'd woken me & he expressed surprise that I was still in bed. Reminded him that it was only 7.30 on a Sunday...just because he's swanning around in 30 + degrees of sunshine, sightseeing, doesnot mean that I have to be awake and sharing his joy.

One cup of tea later (essential, nothing functions without this) and then I had to go to the bakers as elder child refused point blank to go (need to work on the bribery there methinks, maybe I can link it to the earning of pocket money?)

After a quick croissant I dragged the dog round the woods (again, elder child will do this but he will only go round the block, which is OK if I'm planning to go again later but for the main walk of the day? No)

Then came yoga - 90 mins of blissful stretching - and a lot of wobbling in the class in D'dorf with the American ex dancer turned yoga teacher, who is very good and has enviable flexibilty and is very...toned (probably a good job he's gay) People often joke about yoga being lots of waving of arms and poo poo it as exercise. They should try a 90 minute session with John. Afterwards both Rebecca and I had wobbly legs and wished we could get a taxi from the gym to where the car was parked, just 100 metres away!

After a quick shower it was then a quicker dash (it was raining and I'd been promised a drink) round to the Warburtons for proper Sunday lunch, which Sam (bless him) had slaved over all morning while we were 'waving our arms about' in yoga.
It started perfectly with an aperitif of aperol and sekt, followed by roast pork & tatties, creamed leeks (yum yum) and veggies - Sam's a good cook, had even perfected the crackling on the pork - so perfectly crunchy! And of course there was lashings of white wine to wash it down with. The pudding was provided by yours truly, a German recipe - a so called 'apple cake' that I slaved over (not) for hours and hours yesterday, it's very much an apple pie but Germans don't seem to do pastry items like the Brits do (made mince pies for some pre Christmas thing and they were like 'how did you make these?' 'by hand?' - weird) cake to me is fluffy and airy, while pie is more solid with a pastry top and bottom - whatever, it's very nice (if I say so myself) but serve it in the UK and call it cake and you'll be done under the trade description act I'm sure.

The finale to the day was coming home to help Jas with the German homework she didn't want to do this, German grammar after half a bottle of French wine...the perfect end to a relaxing Sunday....NOT!
At least I'd had the forethought to do my German between croissant and walkies and before the white wine, ahhh, the advantages of age & experience!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Snaps 6

This is the front of a house I go past with Logan regularly.
Do you notice anything odd about it?
The man on the bench maybe?
It's a mannequin & it's always there...mad huh?
But not all that unusual here, on the balcony of a house nearby there's a mannequin dressed as a cop, shall have to get that for you one week!

Germans are bonkers!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wok WM 2010

That's the Wok World Masters to those of you uninitiated in the joys of German TV.

That's right, there's no typo, it is the Wok (large frying pan type cooking utensil) World (as in lots of other (ha) countries are involved (maybe like the World Baseball Series in the US?)) and 2010 would imply that it's on every year...yep, the joys of German TV scheduling, last weekend it was the competition to see who would win the dubious honour of representing their country (and committing professional suicide) in the Eurovision Song Contest, this weekend it's let's see who can go the fastest down a luge type run sat in a wok...

What do you mean you've never heard of it? You must have, this is the World Masters afterall!
If you want to see evidence of this daft 'sport' look here, here and here

Personally I just don't get it.
To me a sport is a 'proper' sport when it's an Olympic event, although then I guess that rules out stuff like cricket, rugby, baseball, Aussie rules or American-football and the like, so that's maybe a bit harsh...I guess I need to rethink my 'what makes a sport a sport' rules...
I think what I object to with the Wok WM, is that it's the 'World Masters' and no-one outside of Germany has heard of it, and there are way too many blondes with makeup plastered on (as if they're going to clubbing) being interviewed prior to sliding down an icy tube in a metal dish, eye candy that's all they are, just window dressing, not athletes, mind you I think some of the men interviewed were also wearing makeup...

...and isn't going down a tube of ice dangerous enough when you do it in a piece of equipment designed to slide on ice at high speed? Afterall only a matter of weeks ago a professional athlete died in the luge event at the Winter Olympics...

Fortunately I don't have to watch Wok WM, we have Sky and the wonderful range of channels there, although, even if we didn't have this alternative I think I'd be reading a book or washing my hair or just getting blind drunk, anything has to be an improvement on watching people cheat death in a big frying pan...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Good day Bad day?

Trying to weigh up Thursday,

Was it ultimately good or bad?

  • Woke up at 4am for some stupid reason and took a while to get back to sleep - BAD
  • Had only just arisen from my pit when Si rang from Tasmania (the last I heard he was in Adelaide...) - GOOD
  • Checked email while eating breakfast & discovered a not very nice message from Larissa the loopy Latvian cleaner - BAD
  • Walked the dog early (730 is early in my book) and it felt like spring, all blue sky, sun and warm air, bliss - GOOD
  • Pilates with Frau Qual, and some new instruments of torture, nasty stretchy band things and the hoop of hell, my shoulders are going to hate me tomorrow - BAD (but in a good, masochistic way)
  • German lesson wasn't too demoralising & gave M a good laugh with the email from crazy Latvian - GOOD
  • My bargain tunic from Tchibo gets mistaken for an expensive Marco Polo dress - GOOD
  • Composed and sent response to Larissa, telling her the facts and that I didn't need her 'services' any longer - have been trying to think of a way of doing this for some time & her email was the final straw - GOOD
  • Visited a Nachhilfe* place in Kettwig with Jas and signed her up for 2 sessions of extra maths per week, this is to try to prevent her being kept back a year because she doesn't 'get' maths - GOOD
  • Had 3 emails from loopy Latvian, generally cussing me to hell and back, highly entertaining - GOOD
  • Need tofind a new cleaner - BAD
  • Had Sunday's blissful yoga class moved to Saturday which is a no can do - BAD
  • It's nearly the weekend = no having to get up at the ungodly 625 - GOOD
Looks like the good outweighs the bad.

I hereby declare Thursday to have been a GOOD day!

* Nachhilfe is a bit of a German institution here, it means 'after help' and is like private tuition or extra classes outside of school usually, I think it's so popular because the schooling system is...flawed

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's on!

I'm so excited - do you know that song?

It's my Ohrwurm* today, I've spent the morning grinning to myself and singing this song (in my head clearly, otherwise the Germans would lock me up and throw away the key - you can't look happy and sing out loud (unless you're in church) completely verboten here in the land where ernst** rules)

My friend, who a couple of weeks ago told me she was probably going to get married this year, sent me a text at the weekend with the 3 dates they were considering, asking could we make them.
I sent back immediately
- do you think that was clear enough?
So last night I rang her, and we were in girlie heaven for the duration of the call as she confirmed the date and then we got chatting about the wedding.
Oh the beauty of the internet & google, we're miles and miles apart and yet can discuss the ins and outs of wedding reception venues, wedding dresses, bridesmaids dresses, fascinators*** and everything inbetween.
Pure heaven!
There are some godawful ugly dresses around, especially for bridesmaids, which led to the discussion as to why you would want to put your bridesmaid into something so revolting (honestly, one of the dresses was black and one looked like something you'd put a heavily pregnant bridesmaid in) - but as I pointed out to Jacky, when you're the bride and it's your big day, the last thing you want is to be outshone by your friends, little flower girls is a different matter but the bigger bridesmaids? No way!

So today as I wandered around the shops I kept an eye out for possible dresses for me to wear to the wedding, and I saw something too! But maybe March is a bit too early to be buying a frock for a late August wedding? I shall have to get shoes too, despite my darling mother saying that I have some lovely sandals I could wear....
This is me we're talking about, here I am with a cast iron excuse for the purchasing of a whole new outfit and she's suggesting I wear some year old shoes?
Crazy woman, you'd think she'd know me better than that!
I mean, I haven't been to a wedding since the year Jas was born and that was just 3 months after the birth, and even then I managed a whole new outfit and shoes, no hat though (gave up on wearing hats to do's after I cut all my hair off, short hair + hat = hathair & I'm sorry but you just can't get down and boogie with a hat on can you. Which brings a delicious thought to me, I shall be able to thoroughly embarrass both my children at the wedding - Jas hates me dancing even within the confines of my own kitchen & Ben is at the age where anything that his parents do is embarassing!)

I'm so excited!

*literal translation = ear worm, there is no snappy English saying, what we tend to say (well what I say) it that there's a particular song going around and around in my head - it's usually something mindnumbing from a kid's TV programme or a song Jas is learning for the school choir...

**ernst = serious

***a kind of hairband cum feather/corsage for those who don't want to wear a hat but don't want to be bare headed

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I had a great chat with my little brother last night.

It's not something that happens all that often as he lives in Libya, pumping oil or something. Normally we just make do with throwing sarky comments at each others facebook walls and occasionally catching each other on line at the same time we might actually converse via the keyboard - we're both way to idle to skype!

At the moment though he's in the UK for some r&r, although he seems to be taking it to extreme measures if you ask me.
Not only has he left the heat of Libya (that must be the only thing it has going for it) and gone to England for 2 weeks (wet and windy spring) but later this week, after checking in with the parentals, he's off on a retreat for 10 brother on a retreat!
It's quite the most bizarre idea. His wife goes on these things regularly, she's Budhist and it fits in with her way of dealing with the world.
But my little bro?!
On this retreat there will be lots and lots of meditation and no going outside and no exercise and so I'm assuming no alcohol...
My brother did a full ironman competition last year (and was intending to do another this year but his training plan got wrecked when he knackered his knee) he'll knock out a 10k run without even thinking about it, so 10 days with no exercise could just be the end of him, and as for the lack of alcohol...when he visits here he drinks me out of house and home...10 days and no booze? His liver will be happy!

When asked 'why' Ed says he's treating these 10 days as an ironman for the mind...

So back to the phonecall I had with my little bro, he was trying to convince me that according to NASA days are now shorter by 0.0000000000000003 seconds (there mightn't be the right amount of noughts, he told me to google it, I said I have a life (actually that's a lie, I said that my time would be better spent reading up on the day's gossip on and the reason the days are now shorter? Because of the earthquake in Chile, he reckons it knocked the earth off its axis. I still don't believe him, I grew up with him and I know what an outrageous liar he can be!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Snaps 5

Just because

it makes me snigger everytime I'm paying for fuel at my local petrol station...salt liquorice...with a name like Spunk...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2 R's

that'd be R eading & (w)R iting
(well back in the day they taught the 3 R's, being Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic so I figure I can say the 2 R's)

Reading to me is like breathing, it's an essential to life, the only time I ever don't have a book on the go (I don't do 2 or more at once like some people do, it doesn't feel right, like cheating on the book) is when I've finished one and need to let it settle...some books are so beautiful and have such impact that it is impossible to abandon it when the cover closes for the last time, it seems cruel to kill off those characters who've been so alive for the last 300+ pages.

Simon doesn't get it. He failed his English Lit the first time because he hadn't read the books... managed it the 2nd time by reading the study everytime he sees me reading he thinks I'm bored, you'd think after 20 years of marriage he'd get it...It's not that Simon doesn't read, he just doesn't do fiction, I've managed to find some books he'll read - business books (yawn) and biographies, but he much prefers gadget magazines.

The book I'm reading at the moment is by Markus Zusak, 'I am the Messenger'.
I read his other book 'the Book Thief' and loved it, it was such a clever idea and such a interesting story, a small story really - about how the 'normal' people of Germany live their lives during the 2nd world war and in particular about a girl trying to find enough books to feed her reading habit.
The blurb for this current novel says 'don't start this compulsively readable book without enough time to read it straight through to the final page' - I read that out to Simon and there was an audible rolling of the eyes, if a book grabs my attention then I have to admit to a tendency to block out the rest of the world while I read.
I can see what the reviewer means, it is an absorbing story about a boy/young man who's doing nothing with his life until he stops a bank robber and someone then decides to make more of Ed's caring side, setting him missions around the town. It sounds like a bizarre story and maybe too far fetched, but hey, this is fiction, but it is so beautifully written, there are some passages that make me reread them because the phrasing is so perfect. Flicking through it now, to see if I could give you an example I find lots, this Markus guy has such a way with words, like:

- the feeling reaches a hand through the phone line and shakes me
- I feel like I could carry the world in my arms tonight
- the scattered stars shower down like icicles tonight
- footsteps crease the grass behind me

I'm not one for excesses of description, I have a really bad habit of skipping those paragraphs of prettiness that some writers go for, but this is different, these little pearls are casually thrown onto the pages waiting for you to stumble across them.

I'm glad to see that he's written more than just these 2 books (although the other 2 do look as though they're for 'young adults') and has another in the pipeline, it's just a shame that he doesn't have a larger back catalogue for me to plunder...don't you just love it when you fall in love with a new author and find that they've published 1 book a year for the last 20 years?!

There is however a downside to this beautiful writing, it is humbling, I read it and think to myself, 'I could never write anything that touches that'...ho hum.

Friday, March 12, 2010


...didn't start well.

In theory Thursday is a busy morning having pilates and then a German lesson almost straight after (with just enough time in between to squeeze in a shower & turning on the coffee machine - having a German lesson without coffee is rather like driving a car with no oil in it) which means the dog has to walked as soon as the house is emptied of children (I could leave before they do but that seems a tad unmotherly and as the last one to go is only 8, could I really rely on her not to still be glued to Hannah Montana when I got back 1 hour later?)

It turned out to be a good thing that I did walk the dog then, and along that specific route as I bumped into the lady who manages the building where my pilates is held, Frau Qual was krank she told me, she'd tried to ring me but my house phone wasn't working....

So annoyance no. 1 (lack of 90 minutes pilates, because I do enjoy it despite whinging about it - which, if the teacher is a sadist makes me a masochist right?) led to annoyance no. 2, no telephone. The internet had dropped out earlier so hearing that the phone had also gone AWOL was no biggie, the internet decided to play again but there was still no sign of the phone at lunchtime so I had to deal with T-com (the German version of BT, except maybe a little bit more efficient - they are German afterall!)

You know how awful automated phone systems are? Imagine one in a foreign language...with speech recognition - no pressing of buttons for the Germans, oh no! Annoyance no. 3. Although I guess I was the customer service guy's annoyance of the day when I finally got a human bean to speak to, you could almost hear him silently cussing when he realised I was....English...anyway, he got over his annoyance and arranged that someone would come and fix the problem between 8-10 am on Friday, not brilliant as it would cock up my Friday plans but at least it would get fixed.

Annoyance 4. Ben came home in the middle of my German lesson and disappeared immediately upstairs to his pit...odd, even Muna commented on it, normally he hangs around like one of Logan's farts, making rude comments about my sentence structure. He reappeared when Muna had left and I discovered what was wrong. He'd got his maths test back...a 4 (1 being top mark, 3 being average & 4, in my book, being crap) he can do the maths (and had done a lot of work for it) but his German comprehension is letting him down because the maths questions are so wordy, not just a list of sums you see, but practical situations...

The cloudy day did have a sheeny shiny silver lining though...expats at Lulu's!
And this month we had someone new, Julie who's French but speaks excellent English after living in China, Australia and England. Last night we were 7, a smallish group but still loud enough to dominate the small bar (especially after a couple of Martinis - last night I had a Ruskatini Red and a Lemontini - yum) and conversation covered the forthcoming F1 season (surprised the boys by being knowledgeable about the sport) the pointlessness of non-alcoholic cocktails, why good books don't make good films, how leaving a mobile phone in your jeans and then washing them will result in a nonfunctioning phone, and Ian confessed to be a royal stalker who is quite possibly now on an 'alert' list that the police keep at all airports...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Missing - tact and diplomacy

Just when you think you're fully acclimatised to the culture here in Germany they do something that causes your mouth to drop open and your chin to hit the floor, your brain races to assimilate what's just been said, whilst at the same time you try in vain to maintain that polite British front...

Here's the story;

S was having a coffee and a chat with a friend, J, who she's known for maybe 2-3 years. This German woman has children from 2 different marriages and is now divorced from husband no. 2.

German law seems different to British law when it comes to divorce (although as I've never been involved in a divorce in either country I'm no expert) and where UK law seems (from a female point of view) reasonably fair, in German law things seem much harsher (or maybe I'm viewing this through the bitter tinted lenses of the 2 divorcees I know of here...)

So it turns out that J's husband (no. 2) did a bunk after finding another, more amenable woman on one of the many, many internet dating sites that have sprung up. She believes that he'd never have got up off his backside and gone actively searching for someone, but as it was, he could look quite happily from the comfort of his (marital) home while she (wifey) sat in the next room watching TV (there's a moral in that I guess - either don't let your other half cruise the internet alone or maybe check up what websites they've been viewing afterwards! Or maybe just spend more time together...)

After sharing this little pearl of information, J asks S what she'll do WHEN T (husband of S - I hope you're keeping up) does the same and finds himself a new woman on the internet and leaves her...
and then, clearly not noticing the stunned expression on S's face and having missed the sound of the chin hitting the floor, she carries on to outline the problems that S WILL face WHEN this happens, asking has she thought about this or that or the other and that clearly she'd lose the kids because they would be so thoroughly German and so would have to stay here while she'd have to return to the UK...

Meanwhile S's brain is still wandering in a dazed circle wondering whether she heard the question correctly or maybe just maybe it was lost in translation...


This woman really did ask her friend what she's going to do WHEN she's abandoned by her husband (who, by the way, has shown no signs of straying - as far as we're aware - in fact when told of the whole conversation he pretty much fell off his chair in hysterical laughter)

Forget lessons in anti-mobbing (see last week) German schools need to teach tact and diplomacy.

Germans - they're quite, quite bonkers!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I'm lazy.

Yet another confession from me.

I hate cleaning the house and resent the time it takes, so I have a cleaner.

I got her from Rebecca, we share her or rather we both use the same person (my house is neither so big nor so dirty that I need her to be here half the week...)

Anyway, Larissa is Latvian and as mad as a box of frogs. This, as a possible blog subject has been teasing me for a while but I think I* now have enough anecdotes to entertain you....

  • Larissa HATES Germans (prefers to clean for foreigners - probably because we're not as anal or bossy as your typical German Hausfrau) but continues to live here
  • she complains that my windows are dirty (errrr, if they were clean I wouldn't need you...)
  • hates my dog (he's big and smelly and hairy and frequently wet from lying in the river) but when she found out how much I paid for kennelling suggested that she could look after him next time....maybe not
  • doesn't seem to understand the concept of dusting, left her a note yesterday (as I'd be out when she arrived) asking her to dust more thoroughly (!) and mentioned 2 areas that she always overlooks, so she did one of them, at the expense of the rest of the bedroom dusting and completely ignored the other.
  • threatens to cut off Oscar's nose if he rubs it on the it makes the window dirty, and has twice given Rebecca the number for a dog barber because she feels his coat is too long & he sheds too much, R has tried pointing out that the hair will still fall out but just be shorter...
  • claims to be allergic to the noise of my Dyson and dust and vacuum exhaust.
  • used to frequently claim to have visibly lost weight after an exercise class/long walk - we haven't had to suffer that one recently as she's pregnant!
  • always asks how much something new cost, and then tuts loudly at the cost (despite the fact that we've already altered the cost to factor in the Larissa effect)
  • refuses to drink out of grey or black cups, let alone eat off crockery with rodents on it (Beatrix Potter)
  • likes to take complete care of Rebecca's plants, telling her to leave them in her care and then killing one because she didn't like it.
  • will always point out that you've gained weight (in her opinion)
  • refuses to use my new Dyson because it is too noisy (no noisier than the old one) and too heavy and awkward (I have the skinniest arms and yet I can haul the thing around no problem) she would rather I'd bought a German branded hoover, although she declares everything German to be either 'mist' or 'scheiße'**. The German one that Rebecca got as requested is declared too big and too heavy
  • another friend who has his appartment cleaned when he's back in the UK at weekends returned to find she'd reorganised his drawers
  • open shelving was reorganised for Rebecca, to make it more aesthetically pleasing, never mind the fact that Rebecca can no longer reach the tea and coffee jars as they've been relocated to a top shelf and she told Rebecca that her organistion was rubbish and if she didn't like the new order then she could put it back herself.
  • reorganised my cupboard where all my baking supplies are kept, couldn't find a damn thing afterwards
  • 3 year old Thomas was requested to carry the bucket and mop upstairs, fetch her mobile, bring the cleaning chemicals, give her a kiss...
  • Jas should be drinking the water that rice has been boiled in, in order to recover quicker from sickness
  • I gave her a skirt of mine that I had decided was too young for me, the following week she informed me that I was bigger than she'd thought as the skirt had been too big around the waist for her. I didn't take that lying down - I stood next to her and pointed out that I'm at least a foot taller and therefore entitled to be a size 10 thank you very much - last time she gets a clothes donation from me
  • commented recently how pale and tired and I looked (looking after a vomiting child or two will have that effect) so I countered with the fact that I had no make-up on
  • if the liquid soap or washing up liquid is almost finished she tops them up with water...drives me insane, so I hide them...left her a note about that too & she had the nerve to argue that she doesn't do it...
  • will spot something new in the house and if it's a replacement she asks what's happening to the old one, have starting lying about this, not because I don't want anyone to benefit from my castoffs but because she complains about them so much afterwards...the computer that had no software, the skirt that didn't fit and so on
As I mentioned, Larissa is pregnant with the baby due in 2-3 weeks, she's 'working' up to the end because she pays no tax, no medical insurance etc. etc. I don't know how she thinks she's going to get on after the baby is born but there's no way she's toting it around my house while she cleans, I'm not being callous but is that any way for a child's life to start?

*please bear in mind that while all these stories are true some come via Rebecca
** see word of the day

Monday, March 8, 2010

the folkwang museum

as opposed to the Volkswagon museum...
(mmm, just realised that this is a German play on words that doesn't work in English, you see in German the V and the F sound kind of the same, and the W is a V sound....confused? Good)

So anyway, often on a Tuesday Rebecca and I take ourselves into the amazing metropolis that is Essen (just a hint of sarcasm should be coming through) and either window shop or...whisper it so that the spouses don't hear it...actually shop...with like, real money (plastic money usually, but you get the idea) This week is different (mainly because the last time we went (2 weeks ago) we both flexed our credit muscles and we thought we should rest them) this week we're doing culture!

The Folkwang Museum in Essen has been rebuilt (I don't remember what the old one looked like, nor do I know why they built it anew) and re-opened at the end of January, just in time for the start of the European capital of culture year thingummy wotsit here. However, it turns out that it's not finished...the brand new bit is, and a very lovely, open and well lit building it is too (huge floor to ceiling windows allowing the cold March sunlight to flood in) but the older bit is still being finished, it opens March 20th. I can't believe we were too early for something, let alone something so cultural!

We met up with Jenny first and decided to have coffee in the 'Vincent & Paul' cafe/restaurant first, we ended up sitting and chatting in the sun for over an hour, completely using up Jenny's free time - managed to put the world partway to rights though! That left us with an hour or so to see the museum, which turned out to be an easy task as more than half of it isn't open yet!
All we got was the 20 & 21st century stuff the best of which for me was a lovely Rothko and a Pollock, the most bizarre installation (that must be the word you use, I'd hesitate to say 'sculpture' because that implies art) was a large rug...hung up as if to air, with some long strands of wool stuck on one corner and 2 floor standing fans blowing on the wool, there was also a large tub of oranges and pears nearby that supposedly had something to do with it. The next in line for 'most odd piece of 'art'' would be a dining table, perfectly laid with white table cloth and crockery but instead of cutlery there were feathers and what looked to me like bird bones (what can you expect from an artist whose surname translates as 'treegarden?)

On the either side of the atrium was the photography exhibition - good, some stunning stuff there, an exhibition entitled 'wishes and acquisitions', and a display of posters.

I think we both came away feeling slightly cheated, where were Vincent and Paul after whom the restaurant is named? And I know they have a Gaugain, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Picasso, Warhol, Matisse, Mondrian, Magritte, Klee and Chagall, I guess I'm going to have to go back in a months time for those! What a swizz!

Other bug bears include:
- self service cafe where you have to make your own coffee, made it feel like an institution
- officious staff who made us check our bags because they were 'too big'...too big for what exactly? It's not like we could nick any of the art work (would need a much bigger bag for that) and the museum was not so crowded that said bag would be in anyone's way
- also had to either check the coat or wear it, not allowed to carry it
- and there was a photographer poncing about with a model and an assistant and a museum flunky in tow getting in the way in the modern art/rug section.

On the plus side we met up with Jenny for a good chat and spent way less than we usually would on a Tuesday in town!

Yoga or strip?

Yesterday Rebecca and I went to a new exercise class, yoga (we're on a very determined health kick here)

I did a yoga class half a life time ago and hated it, it was one of those lying down contemplating your navel type ones, which might work on a warm beach with the sound of the sea in the background, but in a grubby little room in the local community sports hall? No.

Since then I have given yoga another go, I have a very good CD that's on my MP3 player and goes on holiday everytime with me and then I do yoga every day, it stops me feeling as though I've given up on exercise for the duration of the 2 week holiday!

I've also done a fair amount of yoga on the Wii fit so I know my way around a downward dog and a sun salutation, enough that when I saw mention of a yoga class being held in Düsseldorf by an American I thought why not and signed Rebecca and myself up for it (I did ring her first and make sure she wanted to go)

The class was held in Holmes Place, a rather swanky gym on the Kö (where all the VERY posh shop are - the likes of Prada and Fendi and Chanel) but gyms have a way of removing social barriers don't you think? You can dress up your body in whatever fancy gear you want but in the gym if you don't get at least a little bit sweaty then what's the point? And in a communal changing room everyone gets to see your naked ass, and that certainly hasn't got a Fendi logo on it (unless of course you have a really tasteless tattoo!)

John who took the class is a dancer by training and now teaches yoga, so he's incredibly supple and bendy. We started off with some 'ohms' but then got stuck in to what to me will always be classic yoga, there was the triangle, the warrior pose (variant 2 apparently) the downward dog, the stork (he demo'd this first and I watched and thought to myself, 'even if I had my back to the wall to keep me upright there's no way I'm flexible enough to do that, let alone do that and balance' stand 'mountain strong' (feet together, pulling up the thigh muscles (name escapes me at the mo) and the glutes) then fold over at the waist, at the same time that you 'peel' one foot off the floor, then lift it up to your other knee and grasp the foot (keeping that other leg REALLY straight so that you don't wobble and fall over...) then (if you haven't already fallen over) you straighten the lifted leg (whilst holding onto it) He reckons that over time we'll work on getting the lifted, straightened leg up higher and higher, until it's in front of our face...don't think so somehow! I couldn't balance at all on my right leg, the left leg worked better, marginally!
The last exercise before the wind down was a V shape, you lie down and then simultaneously lift legs up (straight of course) to maybe a 45 degree angle and your torso, so that you form a V, you're supposed to keep your neck relaxed or maybe it was 'your throat chakra open' easier said than done I can tell you.

The wind down was the typical stuff of trying to relax your ear bones and letting everything, muscle by muscle get heavy, I tuned it out after a while and started thinking about lunch...

It was a great class, with a very good instructor, he was very attentive, making sure everyone worked within their limitations but at the same time helping us when we weren't quite getting the pose right. A lovely way to spend 90 minutes on a Sunday morning, setting me up for the day and the week ahead, shame the first couple of poses worked over my shoulder joints that were only just recovering from Frau Qual on Thursday!

On reception on the way out we spotted flyers for a new class at Holmes Place and we're half tempted to sign up (although we wont because 1) you probably have to be a member & 2) we're not that crazy) the class is called 'dance 'n strip' and the photos on the flyer are fairly provocative, wonder if it's girls only?!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Snaps 4

This is where I was trying to run this week....I'd been expecting the river to break its banks, happens most years!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

It's a wine group, with a book problem

First Friday of the month was last night.

And that means book group - or as S described it last night 'we're more of a wine group with a book problem.

The usual suspects were there, although not everyone had read the book,
me, had read it & enjoyed it
S1, up to about page 150
L, not even attempted it
K, read it & declared it to be holiday reading
N, is waiting for it to turn up from Amazon (the only reliable source of English books here in Germany)
E, only just started it
S2, up to about page 100

The book in question was Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The first of the Millenium trilogy from the Scandinavian author who inconveniently died shortly after producing this series of 3 crime novels. I enjoyed both the 1st and 2nd of the series (haven't got hold of the 3rd yet) finding them to be unputdownable (much to Simon's disgust, he still (after 20 years of marriage) doesn't realise that I read because I love it not because I'm bored).

Unsurprisingly the book was discussed for about 2 minutes, partly due to the fact that only 2 of us had finished it (and it would be unsporting to let on about what happens) we had a longer discussion about the author and a good reminisce about books we've read previously, whether we'd finished them and whether we'd liked them...We also had a debate about what to read next before settling on 'the Monk who Sold his Ferrari' Kamesh's suggestion...we'll see (Simon's opinion is that 'the monk who bought a ferrari' might be a more interesting read)

Other topics last night were;
- Karneval, the German obsession with organised fun,
- whether it would be a bad idea to go to an 'over 30's' party night (L would have to lie about her age as she's the baby of the group) because we'd like to think that the music would be from the 80's and therefore fun to dance to,
- which led us onto our guilty music secrets, the biggest shock was that K was a (and still is) classical music buff back then and so wasn't into the pop scene at all, cue horrified gasps all round, this somehow segued into me and S2 giving a rendition of Toni Basil's 'oh Mickey'
which was shortly followed by a group attempt of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody', we were quite rowdy last night...lots of indignant stares and tutting from the more sober (in both senses of the word) Germans...
- L and S2 tried to outdo each other with who's been to the most Africa-y part of Africa, S2 had to concede that with Sierra Leone L won.
- a discussion of the differences in language between America, Australia and England, despite them all speaking English - the word 'sledging' for example, describes a mode of transport in the snow to the Brits but to Ossies it's the slagging off of your opponent in cricket & the yanks don't know the word at all
- the anti-mobbing training my son underwent this week which succeeded only in teaching him 2 new swear words, and the similiar 'training' K's son's class got, which sounded much better.
- the Düsseldorf bookgroup where N is also a member, they read some of the same books that we do and were asking N which group was the nicer, we're toying with the idea of having a picnic meetup of the 2 groups in the summer
- where to get a good martini, we suggested Lulu's because there they would actually be happy to make it exactly as you wanted (S2 has had some bad martini experiences here in Germany)

At some point in the evening (after the 2 bursts of song) a woman approached us tentatively (she deserves a medal for braving our raucous table at all) and said she'd heard we were an English book group (she must have overheard the (very) loud English being spoken and asked the owner about us - we're at the black cat every month so he's used to us & enjoys practising his
English on us) She wanted to know if there were any special requirements to joining, to which of course the answer was no, just a liking for red wine, you don't even need to have read the book we said, so she went off and grabbed her drink and abandoned whoever she was with to come and join us...

4 hours and 5 bottles of red wine later we left the warmth of the bar to go home, to find snow settling quite seriously on the ground, great, just when we thought spring was around the corner!

Friday, March 5, 2010


No, not talking about the furry felines.

Talking about the Convention against Torture.

That would be the United Nations Convention against Torture.

You see I have a theory. I think that my pilates teacher used to be a professional torturer until that kind of trade got banned by the UN way back in 1985.

Today's class looked easy. There were no scary swiss balls, foam rollers or pilates cushions lying around waiting to ambush us. Just the normal blue mats and hand weights.
Piece of cake I thought to myself, we had a choice of 1 or 1/2 kilo weights (truly cake, as in my step class I'm the only one who uses the 1.5k weights - my arms might look like sticks but appearances can be very deceptive!)

It started nicely enough, as alway with the 'mobilisation' exercises (bending and swivelling - but no moving the hips now, that is VERBOTEN) and then lying down lifting the weights over our heads and stuff, as I thought, cake! I was even remembering to breathe in and out at the right points and keep everything zipped (that should be) & hollowed (that should be).

Then we put the weights aside (I should have gotten suspicious then) and lying on our backs were rotating our legs out to the side, everything bent at a 90 degree angle, do-able.
Then legs straight up and into a V and in and out and in and out - fine, but then we had to add the arms, stretching them straight up towards the ceiling and stretching 1st the left further and then the right, ok (couldn't zip 'n hollow as well as doing the breathing, the legs and the arms but hey 3 out of 4 can't be bad) but no. Frau Qual* came over to me and started to pull on my hands to make my arms go even further...(so if none of the sleeves of my clothes fit me now it's all her fault)

Another impossible ask today was an excerise I can do in an aerobics class, where the one hand is used as leverage but in pilates that's not on, we were lying on our sides, propped up on the one arm, resting on the elbow and the other arm (the one I would dearly love to use as a lever) lay flat down to the hip, and then we had to heave (or in my case try to heave) our arses not happening. I did manage it a couple of times (but couldn't breathe at the same time let alone zip 'n hollow).
You'd think having seen us failing at this task (from the giggling going on around the room I wasn't the only one with a heavy butt) Frau Qual would have moved onto something She's German, she had a plan and she was not going to deviate from it.

We started out in the 'child's pose', this is wonderfully relaxing and she lulled me into a false sense of security with it. From this comforting position she demanded we 'slide' our noses along the mat until we were flat on the floor, ok-ish, but then you have to go back into the child's pose by hauling your 'po-po' (as she termed it - arse, in other words) up and back...not a hope! I don't know what muscles you need for that manoeuvre, but I don't have them, and nor does Rebecca, she tried to blame the mat for being sticky or too slippy (it was one or the other, I forget which, but it was a feeble excuse).

It was possibly the most fun we've had in our pilates class so far, despite Frau Qual's liking to inflict pain! I'm looking forward to seeing the results in my streamlined body as I bake myself next to the pool in the Spanish sun in pain no gain right?

* die Qual - the torture

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lost in Translation

A great film, have you seen it?

Lost in Translation
stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson, written & directed by Sofia Coppola, a good pedigree no? It won an Oscar, a Golden Golbe and some Baftas and of course I didn't see it at the cinema, saw it on DVD though! In case you can't be bothered to click the link and find out more, I'll summarise for you;
Bob an aging movie star arrives in Tokyo to film an ad. Charlotte is the young wife of a celebrity photographer on assignment in Tokyo. She is pretty much abandoned in the hotel as her husband is out working and is unsure about her life and her husband. Bob is going through a midlife crisis, his 25year marriage is tired and lacking in romance. These two meet in the hotel bar and become friendly, having adventures in Tokyo together, experiencing the differences between Japanese and American culture, and between their own generations

Our first moment of being lost in translation dates back to before we'd actually moved to Germany. We were spending a week at Easter in southern Germany, the year before moving out here, the children knew a little but not much German.
We were sat in an ice cafe and had eaten our (very large) ice creams and wanted the bill. Not a waiter in sight so we sent the most bribable child to do our bidding (well, as the saying goes 'you don't have a dog and bark yourself') Ben emerged from the depths of the cafe looing confused...

"he says 'he come to fart'" reported Ben



The penny drops

"you mean he said 'ich komm sofort*'?"

Poor Ben, it's a tale oft told, and will surely haunt him till our (Si's and mine) dying days...

I've now had my own 'come to fart moment'...

Tuesday as Ben was heading out of the house (7:05 am, an ungodly hour of the day) the phone rang, it was Bettina, the mother of Ben's friend Timo (they walk to school together) she wanted Ben to know that Timo was sick and so not to call and to give his appologies to their teacher. I yelled out of the door (such a fishwife) to Ben that Timo was sick etc etc. Bettina went on to add that Timo 'couldn't even see out of his own eyes' - please bear in mind that;
1) this was a very early hour
2) I had only had 1 cup of caffeine
3) the conversation was in German

fortunately the whole conversation was overheard by Jasmine who had picked up the other line first (a BAD habit we're trying to break her of (before Ben breaks her arms) but one which I'm glad she still has) and she was, later in the day, able to repeat, verbatim, exactly what Bettina had said to me about Timo and which had led me to say to Ben 'Bettina says that Timo can't see'.

Now, clearly I knew she didn't mean he'd gone blind overnight, I thought she maybe meant his rotten cold had caused a load of gunk to glue his eyelids together, I don't know, like I said, it was early, too little caffeine, too much German...
The end result was that Timo's classmates all thought he'd gone blind....

You see, lost in translation!

* 'yeah, yeah sticky foreign kid, I'll be there as soon as I can'

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fur coat and no knickers*

Where's the spring gone?

We had a little taste of it, nature certainly thinks it's on the cards - snowdrops & crocuses all appearing, my bulbs are starting to show their wary heads, sunshine and blue skies and then yesterday snow.

I thought at first I was imagining it but no. It got heavier and heavier and admittedly it had been a bit parky when I'd been out at 8am for a run but that's to be expected in March. But snow? Not funny. I'd even been toying with the idea of putting away the heavier winter coats...ha!

Should have kept that thought hidden where the weather gods couldn't hear it.

The Germans seem to love the cold weather, it means they can keep on wearing their dead animals...

There are so many fur coats around here and they're all, without exception, ugly.

I can understand the reason people wear fur but it doesn't mean I have to like it.

It does get cold here, not really, really cold, but probably as cold as it gets in this part of Germany, we're talking minus 6, minus can tell when it's cold (apart from the fact that things freeze and you don't actually feel very warm) all the fur coats come out.

I spent the first 40 or so years of my life living in England, which is very PC**, the only fur you see on the streets is either fake or still being worn by its rightful owner, so it was quite...shocking to see fur being paraded around as soon as the temperature dropped. I've heard the arguments from various (non German) friends about the pro's of fur (it's so warm and so light) but I'm sorry, no. It just doesn't seem right, and many of them are downright ugly, making the women (have yet to see a man wearing fur) wearing them look older than their years and way fatter than they really are.

I've been surreptitiously taking photos of these fur wearers, so that you can see what I mean, personally I think they'd look much better on the living animal.

Hopefully it really will be spring soon and these monstrosities can be packed away in their wardrboes for another year before coming out to haunt me again next winter!

** politically correct

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Or what my son learnt at school on Monday...

Monday my 12 year old had 'anti-mobbing' training at school.

A double lesson was taken up and we had to pay for the priviledge (5.60)

Mobbing, in case you're not aware is the term for bullying. I'd never come across it before moving to Germany but I'm informed by my 12 year old that 'mobbing' is also used in the English school system.

Last week the boys had all been joking that they were going to get a lesson in how to more effectively bully others...but that would be mobbing training and this was 'ANTI-mobbing' so surely they would spend the 90 minutes learning about respect for others, why it wasn't a good idea to bully someone else and so on....


Instead it was all about how to react if you were the object of mobbing, what to do if you received verbal abuse, which seemed to consist of the trainer picking on various members of the class and abusing them by calling them names...

They learnt;

- don't stare (I can't believe a German trainer had the nerve to tell a classroom full of German kids not to stare, it's the national passtime! I'm sure they learn it at their mother's knee)
- basic social skills, like offering your hand to be shaken
- group work, by ordering themselves alphabetically and standing on their chairs....
- if threatened hand over your cash
- and my son personally enhanced his vocabulary*

As I said, one part of the course involved the trainer asking for volunteers (and picking on people also) and then standing opposite them giving them abuse, to which they were supposed to show no reaction... the abuse included
- fruchtzwerg (literally fruit gnome, a chewy sweet)
- transa* (transexual)
- bastard* (they pronounce it with the emphasis on the 2nd syllable)
- your mom's a lesbian (oddly this is actually true of the child he gave this abuse to, but my son insists the trainer didn't know...)

The weird thing is that the (to me) whole crux of the matter, i.e. DON'T MOB, wasn't mentioned, at all...

Crazy Germans.

Monday, March 1, 2010

X what?


For goodness sake!

Who puts together the list of possible names for storms?
If we're going to have to suffer at the 'hands' of one (do storms have hands?) at least give it a bloody name we can pronounce...I've been calling it X - inthia, hopefully it wont do anymore damage, so far (apart from terrifying the dog - he had his legs crossed most of Sunday afternoon) the trampoline has been blown and flipped over, a large teracotta pot complete with standard rose was smashed and the chimenia was blown over and is now in bits.

The roads are all strewn with bits of tree, the trains network in our part of Germany was closed down (not that that worries me, I'm merely reporting the facts) due to trees on the tracks (a way better excuse than 'leaves on the line') the cathedral square on Köln was shut off (there's a huge amount of scaffolding around the cathedral as it's under almost permanent renovation)...all because of some Xynthia.

I was very glad I'd walked Logan early, when my only thought had been not getting wet. By the time I got home the rain was just starting again and then after lunch the wind started.
The weather forecast on line had said 'windy', I'd never thought to check what the actual wind speed might be, I was just conscious that I didn't want to be out walking the dog in the rain and the wind, one or the other, fine, but the 2 together? No thanks, that's just not fun.

Sunday evening saw another ordeal.
A concert at the Alte Bahnhof (the old railway, where I go for step and pilates, it's kind of like a nice community centre - seems to get used for anything and everything) where Jasmine's school choir were singing 3 of the songs they're performing in a bigger concert in May (our part of Germany is the European capital of culture (or something like that, I might have got my words in the wrong order, but I'm sure you get the drift) this year and so there's loads of 'cultural' stuff going on - like a giant picnic on the A42...yeah, can't wait, the anticipation is killing me)

The Bahnhof was packed, standing room only, but fortunately Jas's choir were on first then we just had to wait till a duet had done their stuff before we could whisk our children away and get them home to bed.

I shall have to make sure we've got proper tickets for the concert in May, the outlaws are coming and they really wont be impressed if they have to stand!