Monday, May 31, 2010

Eating my words

Germany won.

Correction, Germany won by a mile and the UK came last...

And there I was last week saying how neither country would win the Eurovision Song Contest because no-one would ever vote for either country unless the song was amazingly good.

My reasoning was sound (in my mind anyway) viewers vote for music they like and people they like - this tends to be neighbouring countries because they don't share just current borders but also history. The United Kingdom has no real neighbours, well there's Ireland...and I can quite understand them not wanting to vote for the UK, and then you have to cross the France - so not Anglophiles.

Billy no mates, that's the UK, and boy on Saturday night did that show through.

Even the French entry, whose only lyrical content seemed to be 'olé' & 'olly' scored 82 points, finishing in 12th and Russia whose song was a depressing dirge scored 90 points, finishing 1 place ahead of France in 11th - but then that bumper crop of points would be thanks to their 'friends' Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Lativa, Lithuania, Moldova, Slovakia, Turkey & the Ukraine, with friends like these who needs enemies eh?

Maybe we (the UK) take it all a bit too seriously?

The German entry has been declared to be;
"the first contemporary pop hit Eurovision has produced in decades"
and went straight to number 1 in the singles chart here becoming Germany's fastest selling digital download EVER. It has also reached number 2 in Austria and Switzerland, no doubt world domination will follow (I'm sure Germany's tried that before).

It is a hideously catchy song, only last week it was stuck inside my head ALL day & only burrowed its way out and into my pillow when I went to sleep, I can't tell you the relief when I woke up the following morning to a Satelllite free head - bliss. Lena herself, is a sweet 19 year old who apparently has no desire to continue in a pop career but wants to be an actress (this is btw legitimate gossip - garnered from her aunt, not just idle tittle tattle from some gossip rag - do you honestly think I would read such things?) whether she'll change her mind now that she's a huge European success remains to be seen.

On the positive side, afterall, every cloud has a silver lining, this does mean that the whole Eurovision circus will be here in Germany next year - I wonder if there's a chance it will be in Düsseldorf or Köln, in which case I should be wanting to go, but I guess it'll be in Berlin, so I'll have to make do with bitching from the sofa again!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Snaps 16

Last night I was out!

And I wasn't in a bar, oh no, I was at the Fringe Festival in Recklinghausen about 40 minutes up the Autobahn from here.

I'm there again tonight watching The Tempest (directed by Mr Sam Mendes himself) - dead cultured me eh?
This Festival happens every year and every year there's a fair bit of English theatre involved so I'm getting a years dollop of culture in a 2 week period!

So to last night, we (Muna, Rebecca & I) were in the foyer of a big bank (a bizarre location) to see a performance by 'Our Lady J', who we'd read the reviews for (the love child of Madonna and Meatloaf) but still had not quite expected the glamorous 6 foot plus (including 3 inch heels) sexy transexual who strutted down the aisle to the stage to spend an hour with her 2 (teeny, tiny) male backing singers belting out alternative gospel (gospel for the godless she calls it) It was great fun, although possibly not quite what the rest of the audience (grey haired locals who were probably expecting 'proper' gospel) anticipated - there were 2 little old ladies whispering to each other after one line included the word 'slut' - maybe not a part of their English vocab?

Friday, May 28, 2010


That's my conclusion, after (almost) 3 years of living in Germany.

That living in Germany is dangerous (gefährlich = dangerous).

You think I'm kidding?

I was just writing (email) to a friend detailing our medical mishaps in 3 years which include;

- 3 broken arms
- 1 broken tooth
- 1 split lip
- 2 operations

A bit excessive don't you think? I reckon we're certainly getting our money's worth from the health system here!

In the UK I think we'd only ever been in A&E with the children once for each child over a 10 year period (and that was for chicken pox gone bad & something else I can't remember) But now I can probably find my way to the Elisabeth Krankenhaus blindfolded (except that wouldn't be a very good idea as it involves driving down the autobahn) & I even know how to get to the X-ray department (röntgen = x-ray) & back again!

Ben was the first to break his arm, in the April or was it May, he was racing his friend back from the eis-cafe on scooters and he crashed into a kerb. The hospital x-rayed it & put it in a plaster - done, nice quick visit.

The second break was Ben again, this time swinging from the underneath of his bunk bed like an ape, slipped and landed on the floor (concrete under the carpet - very hard) broke the arm in exactly the same place (which is apparently very common, which surprised me as after the first break everyone said that it'd never break in the same place again) Hospital, and the same routine, x-ray and plastering, home. Easy.

The third break was Jasmine 4 weeks ago, tea-time, she was dancing in the garden, there was a scream the like of which I have never heard before & truly hope never to hear again, so I kind of realised then that all was not well. The arm wasn't quite as straight as it had been, there was a bump where there shouldn't be. No problem I thought to myself, we ice packed the arm and I took her to hospital, wondering to myself whether I'd be able to make it to a friend's later that evening - it was do-able I figured...

They x-rayed and then we saw the doc. "We need to operate" she said. "Now"
And that was that. Straight up to the children's ward, Jas was put onto a hospital bed and taken off into theatre. I didn't escape the hospital for another 2 days!!

The worst moment for me was after Jas had been given the pre-med to make her dozey and the anaesthetist lifter her up in his arms and carried her round and through to theatre, in films and on TV people are always lifted almost roughly from one bed to another, but this doctor picked her up as though she was his own precious child. This was however counteracted by watching Jas come round from the anaesthetic, a drunken 8 year old is one of the funniest things I've ever witnessed! Slurring, repetition and inane questions are not good in an adult but from a child who's still hooked up to a heart monitor? You have to laugh!

Life in Germany is definitely more dangerous than it was in the UK, but maybe that's because our children are getting older and more adventurous...'cos clearly children never dance in the garden, swing from bunk beds or race on scooters in the UK!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


We've just had a loooooooooong bank holiday weekend and so clearly there were lots of 'things' going on in the area to keep people occupied (especially as all the shops don't open on bank holidays, except for the bakers that is, honestly bank holidays can be deader here than Sundays are, at least on Sundays the garden centres are open, but on a long bank holiday when you have the time and even the inclination to garden? Not a hope! I had of course forgotten this fact when I drove to the garden centre intent on buying some new summer plants for my sorry looking spring plant pots, ho hum, another job that has to wait for another (non bank holiday) weekend)

As we had visitors this weekend just gone (the outlaws) Simon felt we should make an effort and actually go somewhere and not just laze about in the sun (boo hiss) Ben refused point blank to accompany us and made other plans involving another 12/13 year old boy & scooters, Logan sensibly skulked off to the cellar and we remaining 5 went a Ritterfest.

Der Ritter = knight (medieval styleeee)
Der Fest = festival

Getting the idea?

This particular Ritterfest was held in the grounds of a schloss (castle - but a small scale one, don't go thinking Warwick or Winsdor, actually looking at it now, it reminds me more of a prison than a castle...)

This kind of thing I'm sure goes on the world over, it certainly does in the UK, the Sealed Knot people love a bit of dressing up and re-enacting of civil war skirmishes, the Germans seem to love the medieval era and when they like something they like it seriously. No playing at being a medieval maid/serf/lord with jeans and trainers on under a tunic for them. Oh no. These people had beautifully hand made oufits complete with hand made shoes, the truly serious ones had authentic (I'm guessing here) tents with not a sleeping bag or schlafsack in sight (think sheepskins & rugs instead) open fires abounded and much ale was being quaffed (can't trust that medieval water you know!)

After watching the end of the jousting/skirmish - whatever it was, we got there too late to see the beginning and I couldn't see over the heads of the crowd to actually see any action myself, hence me being a little unsure of what exactly was occuring to cause the cheering! When the fighting had finished we toured the grounds, stopping for Jas to waste 1 euro on betting which house the white mouse (which I'm convinced was a rat - it was huge, and as you know, I do have a good idea of what a rat looks like) would choose, she didn't win, as Ratty chose the house 3 doors down from the one Jas had put her/my money on.

Then onto another game, using miniature catapults that fired corks, Jas had to try and knock as many men on the castle ramparts down as possible, she was very please to win a 'lucky necklace' although I think the stall holder took pity on the girl with the broken arm who had to get her dad to hold the catapult in position while she fired (it's definitely a 2-handed job, firing a catapult!)

Pete (FIL) stopped at the longbow maker and must have started making comments in English to MIL (at least I hope that's how the conversation started, I hope he didn't try his German...) because when we walked back to find where they'd got to the 3 of them were deep in discussion about long bow usage, the musculature of the bowmen etc etc etc - Pete was well up for this conversation as he'd just finished the book Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell, a very, very good book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

We watched a very good juggler for some time, in fact I think we saw his whole show & we were certainly stationary long enough for Si to burn his face red. The juggler started off with 1 onion (I've never seen an onion so big - maybe that's what the mice eat?) and worked up to 4 or was it 5 onions?
Anyway, then he went onto the more traditional juggling baton thingies but made of wickerwork before the finale, the flaming torches. Again he managed to keep 5 fiery torches airbourne without setting fire to the dry grass or his clothing (I was going to type hair, but I've realised he didn't have any hair under his leather hat...I wonder why?)

By then we were thirsty and stopped at a small tavern for apple juice, diet coke and iced tea (weren't the medieval times advanced?) as we walked away from the tavern we noticed a large barrel at the side but under the canvas roof of the tavern, this barrel was maybe 4-5 feet high and at least that wide, it was not quite full of water and had two people (1 male, 1 female) sitting in it, a medieval hot tub come jacuzzi maybe...Jas of course was the one to get up close and peer down into the water and declare loudly (but in English)

"they're naked"

Germans - they're bonkers!

Monday, May 24, 2010




It's a secret, so I'll whisper OK?

I think, maybe, just maybe, summer is here.

This is just between you and me OK? Don't go spreading malicious gossip and rumours OK?

I don't want the weather gods getting wind (snigger) of this thought of mine.

So why do I think that summer (such as it is in Europe - make that northern Europe) is finally here?

Here's the evidence m'honour;

  • the sun has been out - all day for the last 4 days
  • the sun is still in the sky (which is blue & almost cloudless (a bit of a blow for all those young bedding plants)) at 8pm
  • we've just had a bbq - as has the rest of the area (the Germans are devout Grillen freaks, I think grillen (the verb = to bbq) must be 2nd only to godliness or maybe adherence to regulations or maybe the making up of said regulations...)
  • the family (apart from me - who suddenly found the washing very interesting and vitally important) have spent the last 45 minutes competing to see who can kick a football into a hula hoop, leading to MIL saying 'don't you have boules ?' Yeah, we probably have it somewhere, & you probably bought it for us, but by the time we find it everyone will have wandered off, and anyway with a football the guys think they're playing penalty shoot out!
  • the huge German styleee windows we have, have been open all day, letting in all the fresh air and pollen (sorry Ben - his hay fever has started up today)
  • I can happily leave open the front and back doors so the kids and dog can wander in and out at will - admittedly this does mean more sweeping of the floor (thank the floor god that we have tile and parquet through the ground floor) but hey, I can live with that.
  • have been to the ice cafe and had an iced coffee....bliss
  • have felt the need to walk the dog early (like 8am) before the freakily heathily cyclists/walkers/bladers etc get clogging up the paths and shouting abuse at me and my dog
  • have worn my white linen trousers enough that they're dirty & awaiting ironing
  • have repainted my toes twice since my deluxe pedi in the UK, really need to get another pedi asap
  • and...I've bought strawberries today, strawberries that look as though they grew naturally, not forced in an unnatural situation, haven't eaten them yet, got side tracked by the stawberry wine - oops!
So what do you reckon? Do you think that's enough evidence that summer is here?

Like I said earlier;

This is a secret. Keep it between us OK?

Strictly a need to know basis, I've only shared this with you 'cos I think I can trust you, whisper it if you must OK? We don't want them to know that we know...if the weather turns I'll blame you - you know I will!

btw; I wrote this Sunday evening...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Snaps 15

These last few days have been a whirlwind of singing...I'm sure there's a better way of expressing that but my head's too full of 'lo lo lo lo Loreley' at the moment to even think straight.

This year Essen & I think the Ruhr area, is the 'european city of culture' (snigger) & Jasmine's school choir has been practising since September in order to perform this weekend in Kettwig.
Their first performance was Thursday evening in the Alten Bahnhof on a real life stage, the second was Friday morning to the rest of their school plus whichever parents/grandparents wanted to watch, then came this afternoon in a sunny and positively mediterranean square in Kettwig and this evening they have just a quick 15 minute spot in another concert.

They all worked really hard and make a great sound.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


This is possibly my favourite German word.

Ohr = ear
Wurm = worm

I don't think there is an equivalent in English.
It's a word used to describe those irritating songs that get into your head and play nonstop until you feel like pulling your brain out through your ears with a fishing hook...I may have exaggerated...

Currently playing in my head (and it's my own fault entirely) is the German Eurovision entry by Lena Meyer-Landrut, called Satellite. I was playing it for B&J at breakfast so that they could hear an example how English shouldn't be ennunciated, Lena sings in English and I have to concentrate to understand her, this doesn't stop it being a very catchy little tune that is currently burrowing deep into my head.

I'm told by one source that Lena's singing coach taught her to sing in exactly that manner, à la Kate Nash (except Kate does the accent naturally) - why anyone would want to deliberately learn to speak English with a Cockney-esque accent is beyond me.

And I'm told by another source (aged 9) that Lena is related to a boy in their class - apparently Toby's father's dad has another son and this son has Lena for a daughter...this explanation was given, as I said by a 9 year old, in German, and I'm guessing that Toby and Lena are cousins...fortunately I know the mother (of Toby, not Lena) so I shall be sure to check this fact!

None of this alters the fact that despite having a catchy little ditty for an entry, Germany wont win the Eurovision song contest, and neither will the UK. Seeing as both countries are billy-no-mates, due to one having a bit of a reputation for war mongering and the other being a trumped up little island that thinks it rules the waves, that and the fact the baltic states all stick together - none of this will stop me watching the whole thing come May 29 though, I love a bit of cheese me!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teenage pupation

Today I'm witness to the birth of a teenager.

It's Ben's 13th birthday and although for some time we been seeing the various teen traits developing, today they're allowed to become official.

Here's what I'm seeing;

  • a rejection of parental intimacy - hugs are tolerated as are cheek kisses but don't expect any returns, you just about get to land a kiss and the skin is gone a nanosecond later, as for hugs, you get as much feed back as from a log
  • cheek - he's become lippier and lippier, quite entertaining at times, a good bit of word play can be most enjoyable
  • obedience is slipping - to be expected as he tries to move the boundaries, fortunately we parents still control the purse strings, blackmail and bribery and corruption are rife in this household
  • hygiene - he's obsessed with cleanliness, you'd think he was a god botherer who thoroughly adhered to the 'cleanliness is next to godliness' mandate, but Ben became a disbeliever many years ago, long before giving up on Santa (more evidence for Santa don't ya know)
  • appearance - he's had an opinion about what he's prepared to wear for a while now, I don't dare (seriously) buy even socks or pants without his sayso, to do so risks the item being cast aside on day 1, never to be worn. The standard 'uniform' is jeans (of course) worn low to reveal the white boxers, Quiksilver T-shirt in white or black (although we have managed to get 2 yellows into the mix) a Quiksilver hoody & Converse trainers.
  • he's developed an interest in cars, is currently in lust for an Audi R8 & really enjoyed helping his dad change my winter wheels over to their summer ones (while Si muttered about it)
  • 'boring' is his most frequently used word
  • has a low tolerance level for doing anything that we, his parents, might feel like doing, would far rather hang out with his friends (all male) wave-boarding
  • still thinks that girls are an unnecessary part of the world in general and his class in particular, although he does seem to enjoy winding them up
  • visibly squirms when there is any kissing action on TV, so of course we point it out to him
  • he is constantly surprised, when testing us on our knowledge of something he's learnt at school, that we should know the answer (that so isn't going to last)
  • he's about a half inch away from being taller than me, his feet are now bigger & if I don't want him to get any taller I shall have to stop feeding him!
And in a few years time there'll be 2 teenagers in the house, if I start tunnelling now I should be able to escape before then!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Where does the time go?

The middle of May is always a little bit hectic in the Evans' household.

There's Jas's ("don't call me Jasmine, call me Jas or Jazzy") birthday on May 15 followed very, very quickly by Ben's (who is only ever called Benjamin if he's been BAD) on the 18th.

It's either good or poor timing, depending on how far down the bottle of wine you are & how optimistic you're feeling.

The year we moved to Germany both children wanted bowling parties (they were 10 & 6), to Ben's disgust I organised them to be at the same time (but not together together, if you get my drift) so I had a few crazy hours and then it was all over and done.

And this year I think will have been just as 'easy', Ben's about to be 13, far too grown up (!) for a party (especially as I suggested maybe he'd prefer to have the cash equivalent - he's like one of those cartoon creatures whose eyes are like a fruit machine stopping to show dollar signs) and Jas was sorted out yesterday.

We invited all the girls (there were 9 in total - can you imagine the noise levels?) for 12 noon and after the present opening ritual* I fed them pizza (have you ever seen a child refuse to eat pizza?) and then birthday cake** before loading them all into 2 cars (mine seats 7) and going to the cinema.

The cinema in Essen offers a children's birthday party package which can include a look behind the scenes, that'll be great I thought & both Si and I were looking forward to seeing what goes on in the 'projection room' but no. It's only for the children we were told, we had to wait in the foyer and kick our heels for 20 minutes or so, but it seemed to impress the girls anyway as they all came away with a strip of celluloid, about 1 seconds worth of viewing I'm told (24 individual cells make up 1 second of viewed footage) We just had time to sort out the girls' dietary requirements (sweet or salty popcorn a fizzy drink of their choice) before getting seated in the theatre for that world famous German film 'Hier kommt Lola'.

We were pleasantly surprised, I have watched enough saccharine, sweet Disney stuff to have a lowered tolerance to cute kids with perfect smiles and straight white teeth who can sing and dance and (supposedly) act but the kids in Lola were OK (the baby was butt ugly) normal even and I guess we've (that'd be me and Simon) found our level of German film that we can understand....although I draw the line at anything that's dubbed, original German fine, but dubbed American/UK? No.

So another birthday has been celebrated, my little girl is another year older, and next year she'll be in double figures, how time flies.

*the present opening ritual, German stylee; the children sit in a circle each with their gift and put an empty bottle in the middle, the bottle is spun and whoever the bottle points at hands over their gift for opening. If children are to be collected from the party venue by their parents later on then it's good form to display all the received presents for viewing...

**I struggle with making traditional English birthday cake with German ingredients, they don't have self raising flour so you have to use plain flour and baking powder, the first year's cake looked like 2 biscuits sandwiched together, I wasn't pleased, but this year, this year I had some English self raising flour (smuggled contraband) and doubled the amount of the German baking powder I should have used, the result was a suitably fat and fluffy and moist sponge cake that I then smothered in rich chocolate butter cream.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Snaps 14

What do you think about this bike?

It's a isn't it?

No, it's not mine.

No, it's not Jasmine's.

It belongs to my brother and yes he actually did want it that colour...I've very thoughtfully provided him with a matching pink cycling top.

He says that he chose pink because then when he's competing in a triathlon (masochistic punishment session) and comes out of the water and into the bike shed he'll find his bike more easily because it'll stand out - I should have told him that with his swimming speeds the bike shed will be empty by the time he gets there!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Expats - again!

I almost didn't go.

My drinking buddy, Rebecca, was housebound with an absent husband and no babysitter available due to a bank holiday ensuring they were all out enjoying themselves (how dare they?)

But then I saw that Michelle, another regular expat & also fellow bookgrouper was definitely going as she was alone for the long bank holiday weekend and in need of entertaining.

So to begin with we were just 2.

Then another couple came into Lulus, Nicole from New Jersey (originally) & Philip (I'm unsure of the spelling due to the fact he's) German - I jokingly said he'd have to sit at the bar - you'd think if he's had a Yank staying with him (I think they're just friends, but still) since December, he'd get jokes by now, but no....ho hum.

I wondered whether they were going to stay as they seemed quite put off by the fact that there were only 2 of us - clearly never heard the phrase 'quality not quantity' .

But they did.

She it turns out is trying to find work in a French speaking country (quite why she's doing that from a German speaking one I have no idea, American logic, go figure) and has been swamped by the bureaucracy (is that how you spell that?) how you need a job to get a visa but need a visa to get a job, I thought about being sympathetic to her plight but then thought no, remembering the hoops we hae to jump through to even get into the US, and was interested in finding other expat groups around the area - there aren't many.

Philip loosened eventually (as much as is possible following the consumption of a capuccino and a hot chocolate - a German male who doesn't drink beer - I didn't think they existed!) we managed to agree that the lack of films here in original language (ie. not dubbed) was awful, we discussed stag parties (you wait till I tell you what the German ones are like - it's worth a whole blog to itself!) and we got really stuck into the Eurovision Song Contest, he was quite shocked (or maybe offended?) to have it put to him that he might watch it 'but I'm not...'
he hesitated
'I'm not homosexual'

Michelle and I thought this highly amusing, and told him that in the UK we just watch and laugh and tka ethe piss, gay or not, we know we don't stand a cat in hells chance of winning, we just sit back and bitch about it - maybe it's a cultural thing.

Then he thought he was on a roll and told us (by then 5, native English speakers who have varying degrees of German) a German joke (in German)....



and then had to explain it

in English

and finally we laughed.

Maybe he should have sat at the bar*!

*that's a joke by the way, he was a very nice guy, whose English is heaps better than my German, but I thought that that made a good punch line to my story...and in my defence I have had 2 martinis (1 fuzzy & 1 chocolate)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Father's Day

Today is yet another of the numerous May bank holidays here in Germany (so of course the weather is shite - but that's by-the-by) - in the month of May we have May 1 (which was a Saturday this year and so no holiday from school - ha) then comes May 13 (Ascension Day or 'christi himmelfahrt' - literally christ heaven travel) which is today and because it falls on a Thursday we get to have Friday school free also as a 'bridging' day, then May 24 (Whitsun or 'pfingsmontag') which gets the Tuesday tagged on as a bridging day so no school again. Five days with no school - no wonder they don't have a half term holiday!

Anyway, today is christi himmelfahrt and also Vatertag which 'celebrates fatherhood' and is supposed to be the male equivalent of Mother's day - so you'd think then that it was a day that families would spend together, the children showing their love and attention to their father, not much to expect for just 1 day in a whole year eh? But in Germany Vaterdag is also known as Männertag (men's day) and traditionally the guys get together and go 'hiking' towing along crates of beer and/or wine from quite early on in the day - I've seen them before along the river bank here (the dog gives them a wide birth) and I always expect to hear stories of them falling in the water, not quite the family bonding session I'd envisaged.

Si isn't here to indulge in either the walking and drinking version of Vatertag or the 'we love you Daddy' version - he's slumming it in Japan until Saturday, so maybe we'll celebrate the English Father's day instead - afterall I have to make a note of the date in order to send something to my own dad (June 20 in case you were curious).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mischief in the garden*

I have a little problem.

Actually that statement is incorrect on two fronts;
  1. it's not just my problem, it's my neighbours' problem too
  2. I don't know that it's that little's certainly a 9inch problem & probably a 10 X 9inch problem...
We have a rat, don't panic, it's not in the kitchen....

Ratty was first sighted by me a couple of weeks ago at the front corner of our garden underneath the bird feeder which was loaded up with yummy seeds and peanuts to tempt all the pretty birds around here. The rat sat underneath this metal pole next to the metal fence, paused for a moment and then quicker than you can scream

"Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh! Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttttt!"

It had scaled the fence and sat itself in the tray of bird seed.

Needless to say, it didn't get to stay there long.

Since then I haven't seen the rat in our garden, why should it risk coming in here now? I've removed the food and started starving the dog so that he'll hunt for food***, I think having a garden that smells of dog is probably a good deterrent, the next step up would be a cat but Simon (the big meany) says no, it'd also take a while for a cute little kitten to grow into a lethal, rat killing machine, so we'll have to make do with dog patrols.

Not that the rat has disappeared from view, oh no. I've seen it 3 times since and always in the same place and at about the same time.

Let me paint you a picture;
We (the children and me,that is, Simon is a variable in this house what with his global wanderings this year - Sweden last week, Japan this, I'm keeping track of his airmiles to work out his carbon footprint at the end of the year and see how many trees he owes the planet!) get up at 6.25am on school days, I throw cereal and apple juice at the children and they sit watching German TV on the fridge (cool huh? A big American style fridge/freezer with a TV in 1 door and an ice machine in the other, the kids love it) and I sit at the end of the breakfast bar near the kitchen window, in front of this very laptop trying to wake up with a cup of caffeine (it takes at least one to kick start me into anywhere approaching human)

It's been while I've been sitting here, in this very spot that I've caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye, I've turned and seen the rat, running as fast as it's little ratty legs will carry it along the footpath the other side of my neighbours' laurels, it really is so bold as to run along the path and not along the dirt under the laurels (it's a miracle really that I've seen it, my eyesight is not 20/20 by any stretch of the imagination (I need to go to the opticians and get my eyes retested but I'm scared they'll tell me I have to wear glasses all the time and not just for driving and reading) and it's early in the morning and I'm only half awake)

Anyway, as I said, I've seen the rat in this same place 3 times now and so we've told the neighbours (Jas had actually shared the info with them after we'd seen it eating the bird food, but at that time they quite probably dismissed it as not their problem, but now it's been sighted in their garden) Axel has spoken to rat control and was advised to find the hole that they come from/go into and then we can get something done about the problem, so we're on rat watch, Katja from her house (she gets the better view, what with it running along her path) and me from mine and of course the damn thing has gone to ground. Not a single sighting for a week, is this a good thing (i.e they've found someone else's garden to run about in) or have we just missed seeing it? Maybe it's going home earlier because it's getting lighter and lighter in the mornings now?

The pressure is still on though, because until we find the location we don't know where to put the trap and with small children in one garden and a stupid dog in another we don't really want lots of rat traps lying around, and so the rat patrol continues - you'd think with the men of both households working in the electronic/sensor industry that they'd have cobbled together some motion detecting camera thingummy by now wouldn't you? But maybe it's just easier to leave the spying to the women folk who are clearly used to twitching cutrains all day long....because we have nothing else to do (these last 7 words are dripping with sarcasm)

* a group of rats is apparently known as a pack or a mischief (I think 'mischief' is a much nicer term, although 'pack' is probably more appropriate) and as my loving brother pointed out to me (a little too gleefully it has to be said) for every one on the ground there's 10 back in the nest...thanks for those well meaning words Ed**)

** that's Ed as in Edwin, my little (as in less years, not lacking in height) and not Ed. as in Editor

*** Joke! I know he needs to diet but Logan is way too daft to think of catching food to eat in order to satisfy his hunger pangs, he'd rather turn into a vegetarian and eat grass...this is afterall the dog that thinks snow is food, what can I say other than he's very blond.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I'd never heard of this, it's not really (as in at all) celebrated in Britain, probably due to the innate eurosceptic nature of the brits, but Europatag or 'Europe Day' is, if not celebrated then at least nodded at, here in Germany (and probably throughout the rest of Europe)

It is supposed to be the annual celebration of peace and unity within Europe and is observed on May 9th every year. Today is May 10, I know, and normally the Germans are sticklers for keeping bank holidays on the day on which they fall (so if Christmas day falls on a Saturday there is no carry over of a holiday to the Monday as happens in the UK) consequently I was surprised when I came to research Europe Day to find that it was actually yesterday, May 9, I'd foolishly assumed that it must be May 10 because German's don't move dates...silly me.

So back to my morning, I was roped in to help Ben's class celebrate Europatag, they had taken it upon themselves to provide breakfast for the school, breakfast in the style of various European there were crepes from France, pretzels & bread with ham and cheese from Germany, bread with chocolate sprinkles from Holland, fresh orange juice & tuna frittata from Spain and bacon, beans & scrambled eggs from England....someone needs to talk to these kids about the word 'stereotype'.

Many of the kids had dressed up in the 'national costume' of their country - I saw several dutch clogs walking around, a matador & numerous English bobbies, worryingly there were 2 homemade t-shirts, promoting the idea that English and the bilingual stream of the school are cool - one had the American flag on it (I'd happily argue that they barely speak English in America let alone the fact that they are certainly not part of Europe) and one had the Union Jack, which while representing Britain doesn't represent England, and we were supposed to be offering an 'English breakfast' not a British breakfast...another lesson needed - in the subtle differences between England and Britain...

And then there was the disorganised chaos that is part and parcel of any German school 'do'. I've been spoiled I guess by PTA (parent/teacher association) organised fund raising events in England, where every detail is planned weeks beforehand, everyone knows exactly what they're supposed to be doing and everything runs smoothly and a profit for the benefit of the school is made.
German schools don't have PTA's, and today's shindig was 'organised' by 40 or so 10-12 year olds...the words 'piss up' & 'brewery' spring readily to mind, this disorganisation resulted in 2 groups attempting to provide an English breakfast, one of whom seemed to think that bacon and scrambled eggs were what the English would eat first thing (confusingly they were also offering 'doorstoppers' - which looked to me like the American style 'club sandwich', which is neither English nor breakfast food) and another offering just bacon and baked beans with toast and a cup of tea (the other group seemed to think that iced tea was the first choice of beverage for an English(wo)man - passable only with a splash of vodka....I'm thinking hair of the dog) At least the deocrations were appropriate for our group - last weekend in Enlgand I'd bought a load of bunting and flags all with the English flag on, not a Union Jack in sight (except for on the other group's table that is...) It all left me wanting a slice of hot buttered toast with marmelade, or maybe a nice bowl of cereal.

So my patriotic duty is done, I can pack my flags and my t-shirt (it's got 3 lions on it) away, until the Football World Cup starts anyway...altogether now "here we go, here we go, here we go" & "Inger-lund, Inger-lund"...although I've just found some really good & patriotic chants that I might have to practice!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday Snaps 13

Every year some new trees are planted in the little forest where I walk Logan most days, this is the sign that goes with this years. Vogelkirsche or Prunus avium to give it its proper Latin name.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Big Challenge

Ben has just taken part in 'the big challenge', it's 'the first European English contest for schools. Ben was delighted when he heard about it, and after reading through the small print they discovered that there doesn't seem to be anything stopping him entering and trying to win a laptop or an ipod, despite that fact that he's English and a native speaker.

He brought the test paper home with him, much to my delight so I can test you - don't panic, it's multiple choice! (By the way, this test is for class 6 kids (age 12) there are different tests for different years, in case you think the questions are really easy, and you should also remember that all the questions are written in English, so while you should understand it all easily, for kids who aren't native Englsih speakers it will have been much harder...)

I won't give you all 54 questions, that would be too dull, I'll just give you a few:

  1. My brother .................. at university. a) is. b) am. c) are. d) has
  2. London is on the River ............... a) Teams. b) Thames. c) Thanks. d) Times.
  3. What doesn't rhyme with white? a) light. b) height. c) site. d) quiet.
  4. 50 people the club when they heard the fire alarm. A lot of people panicked. a) didn't panic. b) danced. c) had fun. d) were dancing.
  5. The rose and the lion are emblems of ........... a) England. b) Scotland. c) Ireland. d) Wales.
Ben is currently arguing with his friends over the answer to the last question. Ben knows the answer, and knows he's got it right. His friends have put different answers to Ben and have checked on Wikipedia (the German wiki, obviously) and declare their answers to be correct...they simply wont accept that they are wrong and Ben the English child is right (it's a very Germanic trait, not accepting that they're in the wrong - trust me) not surprisingly Ben is looking foward to the day the answers are given and the results announced!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hanging by a thread

I don't pretend to be any kind of political animal and I will happily admit that I don't know what many of the parties' policies are, Simon is far more informed about politics than I am and yet I'm the one who's made the effort to vote.

Effort? I hear you say. How much effort does it take to walk home via the polling station and mark an X in a box?
This is the first time I've had to vote from afar and to get a postal vote first you have to register yourself as a postal voter and then they send you another form that someone else has to sign as well to confirm you are who you say you are and then you get sent your ballot paper a week before the election meaning you have to mark your X pretty damn quick in order to ensure that it's back in blighty to be counted.

You probably think I'm mad to be voting seeing as I freely admit to having only the vaguest ideas of what the parties say they'll do if/when they take power, and I don't even live in the country and so the result doesn't effect me, but believe me, I have my reasons;

  • Suffragettes, women fought for the right to vote back in the early 1900's, one woman, Emily Davison even died for the cause, in 1918 women over the age of 30 were entitled to vote and in 1928 the age limit was lowered to 21. Men seem to take their right to vote for granted but I don't and therefore I vote.
  • I can't vote here in Germany, because I'm not German, I can vote in the local elections but not for the national, governmental elections. It's a bit crazy really that I can't vote to influence how the country where I live and (in theory) pay taxes is run but this is another reason that I feel I ought to cast my vote back in England, at least I can get my voice heard somewhere!

The fact that most policitians are complete and utter tosspots is by the by, we can only vote for those who put themselves forward, those people who want the power and a seat on a hard bench in parliament and the chance to fiddle their has always seemed to me that the people best suited to running the country are those that say 'no thanks' - but they've got more sense than that!

It will be an interesting few days/weeks I'm sure, as everyone is predicting a hung parliament and getting all stressed about it, completely overlooking the fact that countries like Germany make a success, election after election, of running a country with a similarly hung parliament.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thoughts of blighty

I had a lovely girlie weekend with my friend Alison (thank Al for the fab b&b service), rather than bore you with a blow by blow of what we got up to I thought I'd share the things that struck me while I was back in England...

  • despite the imminent General Election there was not a single election poster on a lamp post to be seen (unlike here where they're EVERYWHERE) apparently they've been banned
  • there seemed to be more traffic wardens sneaking around than shoppers, I thought I was going crazy
  • high school boys seem to have short hair in the UK, whereas here sometimes it's hard to tell the boys from the girls
  • the weather is just as crappy as it ever was (just like here)
  • Marks and Spencers....what has happened? It's CRAP, they must have new management/designers or something, everything was bleurgh and then we took a good hard look at the clientele - and ran for it before our hair took on a blue tinge
  • roadworks, still coning off roads unnecessarily and slowing everyone down to 30mph despite there being no work going on and it being a bank holiday weekend
  • take out curry...bliss in a plastic, microwavable container, and so much choice
  • Birmingham Airport still doesn't allow cars to drop off passengers near the terminal, unlike pretty much all other major airports - why do they think they're so special?
  • Boots the Chemist, where you can buy ALL your toiletry needs from nail varnish and depilator cream to extra strength aspirin and water purifying tablets, without a gestapo style interrogation from a pharmacist
  • Cadbury chocolate, fruit pastilles and maltesers - all easily purchased = happy children
  • cinema, where every single film was in its original language, shame there was nothing really on that I wanted to see!
  • a window cleaner working on a bank holiday - unheard of here and probably against the law to boot
It's good to be home.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Snaps 12

I'm away, Sunday is our planned shopping day, so depending on whe you read this I should be here:
You can expect the plastic to get fully flexed!