Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grammar Test #1

How good is your English Grammar?

Do you know the difference between the present perfect, the past perfect and the pluperfect for example?

Do you know when to use "its" and "it's"?

Or when colon or a semi colon should be used?

Me either...(I'm now wondering whether that's a grammatically correct statement...)

When you learn to speak a language as a native you rarely have to learn the rules, the only reason I tend to know more about English tenses now is because I've learnt the German rules.

A couple of weeks ago Ben's bilingual English class took a grammar test on indirect speech. His teacher sent me an email after marking the papers appologising for his grade, and the fact that he'd been beaten (in his mother tongue) by several of his German classmates. She was very relieved when I laughed, a German parent would have more likely demanded the paper to be re-graded apparently, but although the result is disappointing, it's also understandable. Ben might think he knows the grammar rules but his brain has spent the last 14 years absorbing the spoken English language, and to then try to take that knowledge and force it through grammar hoops is tricky. I know this from personal experience, because I asked if I could also do the test...

How would you do? Can you put these examples into indirect speech, i.e. report what these people said:

- Dieter Bohlen: "I always did my homework when I was a child, life was easier, but I didn't know this then."
- Lionel Messi: "I've never been to America, but I really want to go there."
- Xavier Naidoo: "Religion is important to me. It always has been. That's why my songs contain religious messages."

Here's what you should have written:

- DB admitted that he had always done his homework when he had been a child, he said that he hadn't known that life had been easier then. (I got 0.5/4.5 for that one)
- LM confessed that he had never been to America but really wanted to go there. (0.5/2.5)
- XN declared that religion was really important to him and it had always been. This was why many of his songs contained religious messages. (0.5/4.5)

I got a D+, worse than Ben, but as I happily pointed out to him and his teacher, I could talk circles (in English) around those kids who beat me, and my accent is better!

Whilst writing this blog I found some great quotes:

  • "when a thought takes one's breath away, a grammar lesson seems an impertinence" - Thomas W. Higginson.
  • "grammar is the grave of letters" - Elbert Hubbard.
  • "grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power" - Joan Didion.
  • "I am the King of Rome, and above grammar" - Emperor Sigismund.
And I'll leave you with this on youtube, it helps if you've seen the film "The Inglorious Basterds", but it's not essential.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Reviews #21

Jump - Jilly Cooper.

There are many (very brief) sentences I could use to describe my feelings about our last book group read..."what a pile of poo" and "don't bother" being amongst them.

There was a fair bit of disagreement over the choice of book after the evening, but it only seemed fair to continue on with the chosen book and although I stand by that decision I do feel as though I have egg on my face (and it was't even my book suggestion).

I have read many, many Jilly Cooper books over the years, afterall she written a fair few and been very successful, enough to warrant the honour of receiving an OBE. Her books tend to be horsey and raunchy, she was writing chick lit long before the term was invented and she never usually disappoints but I fear with Jump, Jilly has lost her mojo.

I gave it till past page 100 but then decided to throw in the towel. It was just too dull and annoying with a main character who is in her 60's with two grown up children who treat her like the doormat she is. That really is as much as I can be bothered to tell you, definitely not Jilly at her best.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Huggy Bear

This weekend 14 year old Ben went on a school trip with his class, they left Friday morning and returned Sunday morning. They didn't go far, Nettetal - maybe an hour or so away, to a youth hostel.

Ben's 14, taller than me now (and has been so for probably the last year, he'll overtake Si eventually (6ft 4) I guess) and although he will happily lark about with his dad I never get to be on the receiving end of his affection (sob).

As he is so independant I left it to him to pack his stuff, gave him the list from school and then before he left checked that he had everything...good job, seeing as otherwise he'd have managed not to take a spare spare of jeans or any pj's. Sunscreen was on the list (afterall it is midsummer) but as the forecast for the weekend was dreadful I told him not to bother, it then proceded to rain & drizzle for the whole time he was away.

Si dropped him off at the collection point & reported that Ben's bag was probably the smallest and that all the girls had huge cases. Some of the boys were apparently chased by their mothers for a goodbye hug/kiss. I had actually managed to get a hug off Ben before he left the house - well, I say hug, but that implies a two way movement. I hugged Ben as he stood as immobile as a board, but hey, at least he stood still, I didn't chance a kiss.

I collected Ben on Sunday, as uncommunicative as when he'd left.

- Did you have a good time?
- Grunt of affirmation.
- How was the food?
- Acceptable.
- What did you do?
- Stuff.
- What kind of stuff?
- Archery 'n stuff.
- What else?
- Climbing 'n stuff.
- Was there a disco?
- Grunt.
- What did you do in the evenings?
- Some people played spin the bottle (but not him, I gather)
- What did you do?
- Something else...chatted...

At least I can rest easy in the knowledge that my child has not been brain wiped by aliens, I have clearly got the same child back that left on Friday.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Snaps 70

A friend has moved house and I suddenly have a whole new area to find 'quirky' garden decorations's the first!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How many Germans does it take to...

...organise a bbq?

Germans might be reknown for their engineering and punctuality but when it comes down to organising the simple stuff...jeez, nightmare!

In three weeks time we have the end of term celebration for Jasmine's class. It's a mixed year class (half year 3, half year 4) and consequently half the children leave the school forever at the end of term and move onto high school. Because of this the party is a big deal. This is the second meeting we've had to talk about it. The first one was spent discussing the invitations and the gifts that should be organised from the leaving children to the teacher and also the 'performance' that the children would present...

Last night we met again, to discuss the food and the rest of the 'entertainment'. There were six of us, which is clearly too many, about four or five too many in my opinion. Over the course of almost three hours we established the following:

- Frau N would purchase the meat for the bbq, but no mention was made as to what (apart from sausages) or how much should be bought.
- Frau H & S would sort out the table decorations, but no mention of how many tables.
- Frau H would source the red & white wine & beer, but again no mention of quantities.
- Frau N volunteered to do the flowers for the tables (!) how many she'll do I don't know as we have no idea of how many tables there will be.
- I've got the easiest job of providing the ice to keep the beer cold. How much ice I should get I've no idea as no decision was reached on what the beer and the ice should go into.
- Frau N is also going to order the bread and collect it, they collectively decided to go with the tastier but more expensive 'bonjour' instead of the normal baguette or bread rolls that the kids eat wholesale. So we'll have 40-50 'bonjours' (that figure was definitely agreed upon) to be sliced up and spread with herb butter but no bread rolls for the sausages to go into...huge oversight in my book, but hey, I'm just the foreigner, what do I know?
- the games for the children to play (this is Germany, so we're talking competitive games here, tug of war, football etc.) were briefly touched upon, as in 'that'd be a good idea' but no plan was made as to what would be done when.

I do know that I have to be there two hours before kick off in order to set up the unknown number of tables etc. and I'm also quite certain that there will be enough wine to drink so I can spend the afternoon in a fuzzy blur as I gradually convince myself that I'm actually incredibly fluent in German and so proficient that I no longer have any need for lessons!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bekloppt #2

It's a year (I checked) since I did 'Bekloppt #1' and therefore it's time for part 2! And more supporting evidence for why I believe the Germans to be bonkers.

- I was walking Logan with a friend last week when we met a guy walking his dachshund and some other larger hound. Man asks what my dog's called. Logan, I answer, thinking it's an odd question and why? He rabbits on about his sister and her dog or something (I only asked because I didn't think he should get away scot free with such a question, I wasn't actually interested) my friend then went onto to tell him that Logan was a retriever. To which the guy made a disbelieving noise and commented that Logan was an odd colour for a retriever...that'd be my GOLDEN retriever who is GOLDEN as opposed to these washed out white dogs that are Golden Retrievers in name only, pah!

- I have ranted many times about the (not)supermarkets here. After four years I'm used to them and quite honestly the size and choice and hospitality of the supermarkets in the UK scares me now. I was in Kaisers on Saturday, had my new, big (for the beach) basket with me and as the crazy, whirling dervish checkout person scanned my stuff (I didn't have heaps, just what I suddenly realised I didn't have to make tea on Saturday or Sunday - oops) I planned to load everything into the basket there and then (instead of the usual routine which is to dump everything back into the trolley and then decant into bags in the boot of the car - a huge faff) With any other checkout person this would have been fine, but this creature seemed to be on speed, she wanged my stuff so fast down the conveyor that the customer before me nearly took my tomatoes and the woman after me almost got my tortillas. In the midst of this chaos, as I'm trying to throw stuff into my basket without crushing crushable stuff and without losing anything, this fiend says;
"einmal in ruhe"
Which translates as "let's calm down".
Fine, but I didn't start it, she did!

- A friend was moving offices and scrounged a plastic carrier bag from a colleague. Nothing unusual in that. It was a freebie bag from a shop called DM (imagine Boots without the nice stuff, no polish and shine and no pharmacy either come to that - we're talking basic, more like Supadrug maybe) and in a lot of shops you pay for the plastic bags but the DM ones are cheap and thin and free. My friend was grateful for the use of the bag but probably forgot all about it. A week or so later she bumped into the bag lender who asked if he could have his bag back...I have a drawer full of plastic bags (a sign that I spend too much time shopping?) I'd give them away to good (or not so good, actually, I have that many) homes.

- Friend A was asked by Annika which mobile network she was with and from the answer she received decided that they were on the same network and therefore she could phone Friend A for free. A month later and Annika got her phone bill with charges on it from phoning Friend A (still with me?) So she confronts Friend A accusing her of giving her dud information and without actually asking for hard cash, pretty much implied that the size of the bill was all the fault of Friend A. I'm hoping and praying Friend A stands her ground and isn't guilt tripped into donating to Annika's phone bill.

- Friend B recently moved house, the move was set to take several days because the removal company were not only moving the stuff but also packing and unpacking. (German) friends asked whether she wanted a hand in feeding the men...apparently one of these friends had even provided her removal men with breakfast. I've moved several times in the UK and the most that removal men there expect is coffee and tea - admittedly it pretty much has to be drip fed caffeine and the kettle is literally the last thing to be packed and the first item off the wagon, but food as well? I don't think so! Madness.

So what d'you think? Are they crazier than a box of frogs? More evidence will be forthcoming, you can bet on it!

Word of the day; you bet, that... - wetten, dass*

* Wetten, dass... is a TV programme here that has been running since the times of John Logie Baird, and despite the final goodbye from Thomas Gottschalk on Saturday night, it will continue (I'm skipping with joy) not that I shall be watching (shudder).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Snaps 69

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the flock was once again back up to its usual strength, I had thought that maybe two hadn't survived the winter, but no, they're all out now and frolicking in the summer sun.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


My husband frequently tells me that I'm too anti German on my blog...and he's probably right, today I thought I'd redress the balance slightly (don't fret, normal service will resume in further posts - I've got a stinker brewing...) today I thought I'd share a few observations about some fellow English speakers (although I'm using the term 'English' here in the loosest possible sense) - Americans, just because they amuse me;

- yesterday I früstücked with some girlie friends down at Enzo's (as we locals call it, Romeo's to tourists & visitors.) Two hours of latte macciatos, 4 types of bread, 3 lots of meat, 2 types of cheese and jam. Lunch definitely not required! We were our core früstück crew (me, Rebecca, Rachael & Princie) plus Princie's visiting sister, over to 'do Europe'. Princie (American, that's not her given name, but no-one calls her Marion) has been here in Germany about a year now and seems to enjoy hanging out with us Brits, putting up with our constant ribbing about her 'English'. She takes it all in good part, agreeing that Americans have taken what was a beautiful language and brutalised it, she even puts up with us telling her red neck jokes (she's from Alabama) and then tells us more. She and Mariglenn were going to hit the shops after breakfast with us, they were heading to 'Downtown Essen'.
Which had Rachael and I almost hysterical with laughter, downtown Essen? Does that mean there's an 'uptown Essen' too? We then had to explain that in English English you would merely say you were going to Essen (to the shops). Downtown indeed!

- on Monday evening it was Leslie's party. Leslie is the Texan co-owner of Lulu Bar, the local expat watering hole. Most of the guests were naturally German but there were 4 of us expats there (a couple more were invited but were off galivanting in Amsterdam and Paris - as you do on a long bank holiday weekend - especially when unencumbered with children). It was a lovely evening, a great evening altogether in fact, it's fun to turn up to a party where the host owns the bar and tells you it's self service (didn't go crazy as had to be at the gym at 9am the following day - bad plan I know.) We were all standing outside chatting when suddenly Leslie appeared next to us declaring she needed to come and talk to us expats as the others were taking the piss out of her German. To which I just laughed, "you really need Princie then, 'cos we'll only mock your English!" Cruel but true.

- for the Royal Wedding party back in April, Princie said right from the get go that she would bring the cucumber sandwiches...we Brits were shocked and surprised to put it mildly. Sandwiches were afterall invented by the English (the fourth Earl of Sandwich to be precise) and cucumber sandwiches are quintessentially English, as English as the game of cricket where they are traditionally served at tea time. And here we had a Yank wanting to make them. However we let her get away with it as no-one else wanted to and she did a damn fine job of it too (or so I'm told, I loathe and detest cucumber and the closest I get to them is either in a face pack or a Greek salad.)

- July 4th is Independence Day. I reminded Simon yesterday that we have an invitation to celebrate Independence Day (on July 2nd, we're clearly allowed to celebrate this early, unlike the Germans with birthdays) and wanted to make sure that he was actually in the country and not gadding around the world on 'work'. He looked at me for a moment and then straight faced asked "and who did they get independence from?" We've decided we'll celebrate letting them go and casting them off! There will be no fireworks though as the legalities involved are insurmountable!

Aahhh, Americans, I love 'em, but I couldn't eat a whole one!

Word of the day; the American - das Amerikaner

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

book reviews #20

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

This was a book group choice, chosen by Sarah for the simple reason that it was her birthday!

I guess Kazuo Ishiguro is more well known as the author of "Remains of the Day", which I haven't read & I'm not sure I want to read, as although this was a good book with an unsettling premise I'm not sure I want or need to read another by the same author, because I feel that if this hadn't been a bookgroup book I could have easily given up on it at almost any point.

If you plan to read the book then read no further, otherwise, if you're not concerned about spoilers, read on.

The story is told by Kathy, a "carer", as she goes about her work of caring for specific, sick people and reminisces about her past. She's in her early 20's and talks about Hailsham that she attended, which sounds like a boarding school. As the story unfolds though, it becomes apparent that Hailsham wasn't just a school but more like a very eco friendly farm, where the children are kept under ideal conditions until fully grown and able to fulfill the requirement for which they were bred ( that's right, they're clones) - organ donation. This goal has never been kept a secret from the children and it is their mute acceptancce of this that turned my stomach. The idea is that first the young adults, after leaving their 'school', become carers for other clones who've started donating and are recovering in clinics. Most donors achieve at least two some as many as four donations before 'completing' (a rather disgusting way of saying that they've died) but I found this hard to swallow, OK, so someone can live with one kidney but what else can a body donate without having their life compromised to such an extent that they're completely tied to a hospital bed (& these people weren't, so they weren't in the prime of health either but they were certainly capable of jaunting around the countryside, no mention of catheter bags or oxygen tanks). Why didn't they just run away? They had been brought up to be free thinking and questioning so why were they so acceptant of their fate? They are portrayed as little more than laboratory animals in their dumb acceptance of what lay ahead for them, but then maybe that's the whole point of the story...

I'm glad I've read it, and even more pleased that it's finished and I can go on to read something truly frivolous and frothy, but would I go onto to read another book by the same author? I really dont know!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Snaps 68

You were going to get more blue sheep but then a tram stopped outside the restaurant window and I couldn't resist. Who says Germans have no sense of humour, calling a garden centre after snot!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Quiz night

Our usual monthly expats took a quizical turn this week, Ian decided to treat us to pub quiz.
Some months Expats might only 4 or so of us die hards, drinking and chatting the evening away but the promise of something different enticed most of bookgroup to come along to Lulus, so the effect was that there were more than 20 of us making up 7 teams ready to play for prizes provided by Leslie behind the bar.

It's been a while since I took part in a quiz of any kind and although I will confess to being rather competitive I will also admit to my shortcomings, my general knowledge is rubbish (I usually rely on Simon ( who has a sponge like ability to absorb and retain trivia) to hide my ignorance) or as I commented on FB - my knowledge in general is rubbish. So despite looking forward to a quiz night I was also a little hesitant, did I really want all my expat friends to see the extent of my ignorance?

Sneakily, when it came to making up teams I blagged my way into 3 Lions which consisted of my German teacher Muna (who is gorgeous but hideously intelligent with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things film) and Kamesh who may in theory be equally clever but who when it comes to general knowledge turns out to be no better than fact he might even be worse...

Ian's quiz followed a bingo style format, which took at least 3 explanations before our team understood what we were supposed to do. We were all presented with a grid of 25 squares and told to write the answer to each question in any of the boxes (remembering to put the number of the question in the box as well - quite important that bit) then the answers would be read out in a random order (is that right? Can one really write 'random order'...?) The first team to get a row of answers (horizontal or vertical) or all 4 corners correct would win a prize, and then the team with the most correct woud win the top prize. Still with me?

What gave the quiz an amusing twist was the fact that there were many different nationalities (Venezuelan, Mexican, Indian, German, American, English) taking part in what was an English pub quiz although everyone would pass as a native English speaker (with the exception of the Yanks that is!!)

I wont bore you with all the questions but here are the ones that caused the most entertainment, for various reasons:

- by what name is a chinese gooseberry commonly known? To which Marianne asked "what's a gooseberry?" (she's Mexican/German/American or some combination) The answer of course is kiwi fruit (we put fault, although neither of the others had a different suggestion.

- what breed of dog is Scooby Doo? I hadn't got a clue but when Muna was writing 'Danish Dog' (it must be the literal English translation of the German) it clicked that obviously he's a Great Dane.

- in what American state is the Grand Canyon? The Americans were all pretty smug as the rest of us debated where the hell it was. Muna & I both said Arizona but were over-ruled by Kamesh who declared it was definitely in I said earlier, his general knowledge is no better than mine, because of course although the Colorado River flows along the bottom of it, the Grand Canyon is actually in Arizona.

- what does a camponologist do? We had no idea, Muna wanted it to be something to do with maps but I pointed out that that's cartology, we put stamp collecting and then changed it to watchmaking knowing that neither was right...Emma in another team turns out to be a closet god botherer and so knew immediately that the answer was bell ringer.

- who is Maurice Micklewhite better known as. Another question to which we had no clue. Kind of ironic really seeing as earlier in the day Muna and I had been talking about books we were planning to read, next on her list is the autobiography of Michael Caine - I'm sure if she'd only read the first page we'd have got that one right!

- what was the maiden name of Prince William's bride, Catherine? Brought a howl of laughter from the assembled as most of the teams had had at least one person watching the wedding at my house on April 29th!

- who is Stefani Germanotta better known as? We were unsure and one third of our team was out of the room at the time, so I scribbled the name down and then for some reason wrote Lady Gaga. Muna came back and disagreed with the answer but couldn't think of a better answer. Good job, because Gaga it was!

We ended up being the first team to get 5 questions in a row correct (black, Middleton, John Steinbeck, Great Dane, Pink) and so won a prize (margaritas and a bowl of tortillas and salsa) didn't win the overall prize of getting the most questions right though as we only got 16/25 whilst Emma, Michelle, Lawrence and Trudie got a whopping 22 - brainy swots!

All in all it was a great night out, the quiz was entertaining and didn't take up the whole of the evening so that we had enough time to chat before, during and after! Looking forward to the next one already!

Thanks Ian!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Give us this day...

...our daily bread...

I read something yesterday that struck me as rather ironic.

A feature all about Chorleywood & the 'bread that changed Britain', if you want to read the actual article you can (hopefully) find it here.

The bread here in Germany is delicious and is baked fresh every day and therefore not meant to have a long shelf life - unlike the bread most Britains have to tolerate from the supermarket shelves.

Whenever Germans query my reasons for living in Germany I always say that the bread and the ice cream here are way superior to that available in England (make 'em laugh is always my policy) although the language is ******* hard. My comments are certainly reinforced by the visitors we get here from England, they rave about the huge variety of bread that is only surpassed by that of the ice cream in the numerous eis cafés in Germany.

Anyway, back to the 1961 scientists at the Chorleywood Flour Milling and Bakery Research Association laboratories discovered a new way of producing bread, the new loaves were 40% softer (how do you measure the softness of a loaf?) cheaper to produce and with a longer shelf life, and so the phrase 'the best thing since sliced bread' was born.

The origins of this research date back to the late 1950s and the need to try to find a way for small bakers to compete with new industrial bakeries. During the war and the continuing years of rationing, the nation's households had to put up with the 'national loaf', a dirty beige wheatmeal affair with a gritty texture. This bread had past its sell by date, and consumers wanted soft, white bread that stayed fresh for longer.

At Chorleywood the scientists discovered by adding hard fats, extra yeast and various chemicals and mixing this at high speed they could produce dough that was ready to bake much more quickly than previously. This discovery also enabled bread to be made easily and economically with the low protein British wheat that was available.

However, this research was not just about satisfying the public stomach but it was also intended to help the small, independent bakers compete with the new industrial bakeries. It's a rather cruel irony that this great invention also paved the way for the closure of most of the small bakeries as they were unable to compete with the large industrials when they also adopted the new methods. So what was clearly the greatest thing since sliced bread then went on to completely destroy the market for delicious, tasty and freshly baked bread from the local bakers.

Today in Britain, most people have no choice but to buy their daily loaf from the supermarket, white and fluffy it may be, but satisfying on a day after day basis? Here in Germany I could go to a different bakery every day of the week and buy a different loaf/bread roll every day for a month, I'm spoilt for choice.

The Chorleywood process is used in more than 30 countries while Britain's white bread market is worth about £1bn a year, and most of that is Chorleywood bread. I'm slightly worried that Germany might decide to adopt the Chorleywood loaf, although as Germans seem to take their daily bread as seriously as they do religion, football and relaxation maybe the local bakeries are safe.

Word for the day; bread - das Brot

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Road Rage

On Saturday I was driven into.

This sounds WAY more dramatic than it actually was, I'm fine and my cute little mini is also fine, but at the time I was a wreck!
I was at traffic lights, almost at my shopping destination (having promised Jasmine we'd go back to 'Build a Bear'* and buy clothes for 'Vanille' - apparently every self respecting bear has more than 1 set of clothes, and in our case a sleeping bag too.) We were waiting for the lights to turn green when I noticed the silver Merc in front rolling slowly but surely backwards towards me and my mini. It'll stop in a mo I thought to I beeped my horn and the Merc stopped, not because its brakes worked but because mine did...I was dumbfounded with shock but managed to get Jas to take a pic of the number plate now visible again in front of me (she pulled forwards and applied her brake - eventually.) We missed that green light, to the frustration and beeping of the cars behind and at the next green we both drove on and parked up to inspect the damage. Bloody woman. Needless to say Jas had a great time shopping with me, I was incapable of making any decisions and as for saying 'no you can't have that'...good job Jas didn't realise the position of power she had!

Before moving to Germany four years ago I had only ever driven on the continent once (and that had been earlier that same year, and I hadn't liked it) and once here it took a good few weeks to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road, it's a good job they don't believe in traffic islands here, that would have stretched me. But why do they drive on the other side of the road over here? Back in the good old days most countries started out driving on the left but now only 33.9% do, some historians believe that this started with travellers on horseback, who would want to be on the left handside of the road in order to pass another traveller with their right (sword wielding arm) side. Popular stories then go on to say that Napolean changed the side of the road to ride on because he wasn't right handed.

But the driving on the wrong side of the road isn't the only thing that frustrates me about driving here, although they take learning to drive very seriously (afterall Germans take everything seriously) there's no getting mommy or daddy to be your co-driver here while you practice in the family run around, there's a theory test (as there is in Britain) and then there are lessons with a driving school and for practice there's a practice track, no scary learners out on the roads here!

However, they do seem to have some odd 'rules' that don't fit with my understnad of the British Highway Code (which although a pain to have to learn at the age of 17, does make sense) here are some of the things that bug me;

- In Britain you're not allowed to park within a certain distance of a junction, which makes sense, you need good visibility. Here, although not as bad as in Spain/France/Italy where any empty side of the road is deemed a viable parking spot (and that includes zebra crossings) parking on corners or over the end of a junction seems to be fine, dangerous for all other drivers, but legal.

- In Britain if you're on the main road and there are minor roads joining, you have right of way, cars on the minor roads have to wait their turn. Logical. Here you have to give way to the right unless there's a gold diamond sign. So this means having to slow down to an almost stop in order to check there's nothing speeding up the side road about to T-bone you. There' a crossroads just 3 houses away from me where a minor road is bissected by an even more minor road. There are no road markings and no signage. Accident blackspot.

- There are no high level traffic lights in front of you at a junction. This means if you pull up to the line of a junction (as I was taught to do by my driving instructor many, many moons ago) you can't see when the lights turn green because they're level with you. Frustrating. You have to learn to hang back and remain within sight of the lights.

- Cats eyes don't exist here, or if they do I haven't seen any, I miss them. Driving at night is not pleasant here as there is also not as much lighting on the Autobahns as there is on the motorways in Britain.

- Einbahnstrasse. Not a road name as confused tourists sometimes think (and then struggle to find their car later) but a one way road. Not a rarity here so why do cyclists think the 'one way-ness' doesn't apply to them? Dangerous, stupid and possibly breaking the law? Shall have to check that one before I hit a stupid cyclist headlong on an Einbahnstrasse and get sued...

Now where did I leave my car keys?

* see last week's 'Happy Bear-thday'.

Word of the day; umkippen - to tip/fall over, to become polluted, to change course.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Friday Night Tales

Friday was the first Friday of the month and therefore Bookgroup.

It was a hot evening but when we (Emma, Hannah & I) arrived the big windows at the front of the Black Cat were shut. Apparently they had been open and Marianne commented that she'd been sitting there thinking how nice it was to have a cooling breeze when the 2 guys drinking coffee (yeah, I know, who the hell drinks cappucino in 25 degrees heat and then goes on to drink white wine - makes no sense) asked for the windows to be shut. This led us onto a discussion about drafts - Germans don't on the whole like or approve of drafts, in an air conditioned office you will probably find files partially blocking a cooling air vent - to 'enhance the spread of the cool air', sure.

We managed to bemuse the owner of the Black Cat by requesting pink wine (we all know its proper term is rosé but it was far more amusing to ask for something pink & we were giddy with the heat, honest) we then proceeded to order bottle after bottle of the pink (there were 4.5 of us drinking it (one left after 2 hours to go on a date) and it was hot) to the extent that we drank them out of it, either that or they'd put sugar in the last bottle...Michelle got home safely (it takes at least 1 tram/bus and 1 train to get her home) but couldn't remember the journey, I caught a taxi with Emma & Hannah and I seem to recall Hannah needing the window open for at least part of the trip! Marianne was wise to this problem and ordered her red wine by the glass - the last time she shared and allowed Kamesh to top up her glass willy nilly she suffered - as did Jenny (who apparently had to get off her train 6 stops early to walk before she redecorated the carriage).

There is another problem with drinking too much - we appear to have opted to read Jilly Cooper's latest bonkbuster for next month. It seemed like a great idea at the time...something frothy and trivial, perfect for the summer and a suitable antedote to the previous depressing read 'Never Let Me Go', I can't see any of the male members of Bookgroup reading this month's choice though!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday Snaps 67

Logan and Oscar, bessie mates, honest...this week I'm going to be looking after Oscar for a couple of days while they move house (only 5 minutes away) so there will be much flying of fur I'm sure. I'm praying it doesn't rain!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Attack of the Killer Cucumbers

Sounds like one of those dodgy old sci-fi movies doesn't it?
I can picture it now, squads of eight foot tall cucumbers walking menacingly down the middle of the road, crushing everything in their wake...

Since early last week the usually healthy (if you ignore their love of cake, bread, ice cream, cigarettes and sunbeds) Germans have become, one and all, salad dodgers.

There's a virulent strain of E. coli doing the rounds and the blame was at first being laid firmly at the Spanish cucumber farmers door - they deny it has anything to do with them naturall and now the authorities have had to admit that it might not be the farmers fault, they have also said that they're not sure where the problem lies. But the public has to be protected and so first of all we were told to wash all vegetables especially cucumbers, tomatoes and aubergines (well, duuuhh) then we were told to avoid eating cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and aubergines and all this only a few months after we had the scare about eating eggs/chicken.

Whilst it's something that needs to be taken seriously (I detest cucumbers and will happily not buy them) - people have died and still more are seriously ill in hospital, the problem shouldn't be blown out of proportion, afterall, as one of the headlines pointed out earlier this week '13 people may be dead due to E. coli but 80 million (in Germany) are still alive', and what about the 30,000 people who die in German hospitals each year from MRSA?

Meanwhile, at a party we went to last Saturday the hosts had spent the previous day trying to rework their buffet menu as it had previously included lots of salad options which clearly would be avoided by all safety conscious guests. And another friend off to a fathers day bbq tomorrow* has been requested to bring the couscous she makes so well (but to leave out the cucumber) and could she also bring along a couple of salads because she's known to make creative salads and therefore they seem to think she'll be able to rustle something salady up that doesn't include cucumbers, tomatoes or other words they want salad with no salad stuff in it...hmmmm. Apparently she suggested a brocolli and feta salad (it's delicious, trust me, I introduced her to it) but that was turned down because the children wont eat the any self respecting child is going to touch something remotely healthy when there is a bbq and piles of sausages and buns to attack? Dream on!

* father's day in Germany is ALWAYS on the day of Christihimmelfahrt (Ascension day - I think)