Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Snaps 143

At the circus today, this lady wasn't the scariest act by a long way (Jas hid her face for at three of the acts) but she was very, very good and very high up.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Snaps 142

The view from above.
Went to the Weihnachtsmarkt for the last time this year (I'm fairly sure the last day is today) despite the rain.  
Went up in the big wheel (in the rain, not nice) and this is the view down onto the edge of the market, I like the shadows on the buildings from the sparkly trees.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


The word überfeiert doesn't exist (I just checked) but as Germans seem to be able to invent new words just by sticking old ones together I thought I'd go native.

Über means over and feiern means to celebrate, therefore in my head, if you've partied too long and too hard surely you've überfeiert, although if we're moving into the past tense then it should probably be übergefeiert...

All this leads me to the hectic social whirl that is my life, now it's nothing when compared to the Z listers that come staggering along to the opening of new shop/play/bar/envelope but it is December and the season for for donning of party shoes of pretty dresses (unless you live in Germany that is, where going out in your ratty old jeans will do).

Four parties and one dinner in a two week period, too much? I'm just glad I no longer have to pay for a babysitter every time we go out (seeing as no. 1 son is old enough to be employed by others for babysitting duty, he has to look after no. 1 daugter for free)

It started with our Christmas Cocktails, a late Saturday afternoon social gathering of friends, we plied them with Hugos* and cranberry punch and lots of yummy nibbles - including Emma's awesome Christmas pud cake pops - I'm still trying to remove the remains of one that some child managed to mash into the carpet in the games room, in retrospect I should have sent the dog in to lick it off, it would have kept him busy for hours! This was the third time we've done this cocktail party and every year it gets a bit longer as people realise that we're not going to send them packing and that I can always bring up more fizz from the secret stash in the cellar, 13 bottles this year, great result!

The Friday after we had tickets to the British Businessmen's Club Christmas party, the invite said cocktail attire/lounge suits or smart fancy dress in the black and red theme, that was the only mistake in my book, you should never, ever, specify black as a dress option here in Germany, for most women here black seems to be the default fashion setting, always chic, never out of date - but when everyone in the room wears it then it no longer looks like a celebration, but more like a wake. Fortunately at the BBC do the black was sufficiently broken up by red, although there were a couple of people who really should read Debrett's for an idea of what exactly constitutes 'cocktail dress'. The food at the party was perfect, pumpkin soup then the full roast turkey and then proper English Christmas pud, we were in heaven, add to this the fact that there were real Christmas crackers on the table** - a great night out, although I did have very sore feet the following day (from the wearing of silly heels all evening) and a nonexistant voice (from the shouting over the band and the singing along to the band).

The following day we had "Carols at the Cork's". The Corks are Australian friends of ours (she's a music teacher and he's an opera singer) who have done this seasonal singing session for the last four years or so but this was to be the last one, because in January they're moving back to Oz. Next December and the run up to Christmas will be weird without our chance to get together to sing English carols. It was a very relaxed evening as ever, the kitchen got overrun by the drinkers and nonsingers, the living room was full of food and music***. I didn't sing as much as I have done in previous years owing to the ropey voice and I was trying to take photos. Sunday was a very quiet day.

Last night we girlies were out for dinner to celebrate a friend's birthday, not a very late or very drunken night, although I think we might have drunk them out of prosecco.

Tomorrow is the last party before Christmas, it's another annual event, the Feuerzangenbowle at the Maduschke's. If I remember correctly from last year there's a large bowl of hot wintery punch type alcohol, over which a metal spoon thing is placed with a large cone of sugar on it. Rum is poured over the sugar and ignited, and eventually we get to drink the resulting concoction. Of course there will be food and other drinks and lots and lots of chat as per all parties, Christmas is good for that don't you think?

Then we have a lull before New Year's eve, but more of that party planning another time!

* a cocktail consisting of fizzy wine and elderflower cordial and crushed mint (there should be fizzy water in there too, but we just show it the bottle)
** not something that you can usually buy in Germany, and certainly not a staple on their Christmas dinner table.
*** possibly not the perfect combination, but it always works.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Quizing

The Expats Christmas quiz was rather sparsely attended last night, no doubt due to the snow on the ground, the sub zero temperatures and the fact that as it's that time of year everyone has Christmas parties to go to. The lack of people didn't stop us scraping together four teams though and certainly didn't diminish the competitive nature of the evening either.

Here are a few of the questions:

- In what modern location is the Bethlehem where Jesus was born?
This was multiple guess, but I was so proud of myself and my non existant geographical knowledge for hearing the answer and knowing it was the answer.

- The first SMS message was sent in December 1992, what did it say?
As it was a Christmas quiz, it could only be either 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Christmas', fortunately we went with option unmber one.

- Name the two plants found in the title of a traditional English carol which, while pagan symbols of fertility, have also been the mainstay of Christmas decoration in English churches since the 15th century.
It is stating the bleeding obvious, but it really does help in an English pub quiz to be English, or have half the team English. I knew the answer straight away but the team next to us, 2 Germans and 1 American hadn't got a clue.

- A movie question about Will Ferrell, after inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the north pole is sent to the USA in search of his true identity.
The quizmaster had to repeat the question a few times, putting ever more emphasis on the word 'elf' before the penny dropped with some teams.

- Which Christmas carol takes place on December 26?
Another multiple guess, but I knew that answer, my teammate, KM, wasn't so sure, but as I probably know more English carols than she does (being American) she couldn't doubt me for too long.

- What are there eight of in the song, the 12 days of Christmas?
KM was so proud, the only bit of swotting she'd done for the quiz* was to learn** the song 'the 12 days of Christmas'. So that'll be maids a milking then.

- Who does the Queen watch on TV at 3pm on Christmas day?
So obvious to a Brit, the Germans and the Amis were bemused!

We were delighted with the questions, we were the first to get a full row and then we got joint highest score which led to a tie breaker question, I can't remember the wording exactly but here's the gyst:

There was an eight year period in English history when the celebration of Christmas with the singing of carols and other such jollyment was outlawed, in what year did this begin?

It is amazing that we got to within one year of the right answer (1649) seeing as the reason I gave up history was because I hated having to remember dates and only knew that it was something to do with Cromwell because of all the historical fiction I've read. Unfortunately for us, Simon had Sam on his team and Sam clearly went to a school that drummed dates into its pupils, and they got the answer spot on.

Possibly the most embarassing fact forthcoming from the quiz is that Simon was able to correctly identify Justin Bieber as the singer of one of the Christmas songs, maybe I need to buy him some better music for Christmas!

* I hadn't done any, I always joke about doing some, but somehow can never be bothered to take it so seriously!
** I know, learn! Not just read through once, but read through enough times to commit to memory, dedication.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


or rather vow vow, which is what the German kids seem to think dogs 'say'.   Now Logan almost never barks but when he does it's always a knee trembling 'WOOF' that seems to come all the way up from the his toes, never a pathetic 'vow vow'.

The English are re-known almost as much for their love of dogs as they are for the love of warm beer and custard (but never at the same time, that would just be wrong) but since moving here I've come to the conclusion that there are more dog owners in Germany than there are in Britain.  But German dog owners (and the dogs too for that matter) are a very different breed (!) to the British.

- they almost all seem to use expanding leads, so the dog is free to meander at will, tripping up unsuspecting passersby. 

- often there's no lead at all, the owners seeming to trust that their dog will remain on the footpath and not dart into the path of an oncoming car/bike/truck no matter the temptation.  Now Logan is a reasonably well behaved hound but if he saw a cat or a squirrel...even on a lead he'd want to give chase, which is why I am reluctant to let small (and therefore lightweight) children walk him.

- there are no dog poo fines, owners are happy to let their dogs poo wherever and whenever  they get the urge, which as a dog owner who does scoop the poop, is very irritating to have to regularly scoop other hounds' poop from outside my house, grrrrrrr, and we live on a busy (with small children walking) school route, not nice.

- you know how people joke about the punctuality of Germans?  This extends to dog walking too.  Logan thinks himself lucky if he gets his walk before lunchtime, to be honest any later than noon and he lets me know about it, you wont find a closer, stickier shadow.  But you can set your clock by German dogs (and their owners clearly)  They go out at the same times every day, usually meeting up with the same people and even walking the same circuits, dull dull dull.

- German dogs are very barky, especially the littler ones (Napolean complex definitely) you only have to walk past or be about to walk past and they start, this goes hand in hand with

- snappy, they have seriously bad attitude towards most of humanity but especially other dogs.  Logan can spot a grumpy hound from several metres and will take evasive action, choosing to walk in the road or detouring casually through the bushes, rejoining me only when the nasty snappy, barky creature is safely behind us.  This morning we met a dog that only hates other dogs when it's on its lead (personally I think it needs psychiatric help, either that or a kick up the ass) it saw us approaching and set off.  The problem today was the snow, lots of it, making the paths and roads quite dangerous and the owner was on a bike...eventually he got off the bike to control the dog (it's labrador size, so quite capable of pulling its owner off the bike) a good job really seeing as Logan was trying to get as far away from this beast as possible which entailed trying to pull me into the road.

- In the UK it's quite common to have your dog castrated if you're not intending to show/breed it.  Doesn't seem to happen here, which is maybe why the dogs are so snappy and barky...and also why some of them will try to hump anything - small children, castrated English dogs, literally anything.

- Sometimes when I've been walking in the woods I've come across what looks like the scene of a terrible accident, lots of fur lying on the ground, but no blood and no corpse, odd.  Then one day I stumbled across a woman brushing her dog, on the path, in the woods, weird.

And of course there are the people who refuse to believe that your dog is the breed you say it is, although maybe this happens everywhere and not just here, Logan is apparently the wrong colour to be a golden retriever (he's very golden, not one of these wishy washy white retrievers) he's also way too big apparently (he's not fat, he's fluffy, honest).

OK, dog induced rant over.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Snaps 140

The aftermath of our Christmas Cocktail party...13 bottles of sekt, 3 litres of cranberry punch (& a crate of fizzy water)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Black is Black

Last week I blogged about the possible problems of a weekend spent with friends who I'm used to seeing for a few hours at a time, rather than days.

We had joked that there was a possibility that we wouldn't want to even be on the same flight together on the Sunday afternoon, let alone seated next to each other.

We needn't have worried, we are all still talking & messaging each other as before, there were no fireworks and no strops, whether this is due to the maturity of the group or the fact that half the group were librans who are re-known for their desire for co-operation and harmony in life, who knows.

After a weekend together some things have become clearer...

- when asked if we'd like a drink, most of us will happily accept wine instead of tea, whilst one would prefer red, although bubbles will never be refused by any of us.

- some people are 'on' from the moment they wake up, this isn't me, I need peace and quiet and at least 1 cup of tea before I even approach human.  It is quite likely that the other 5 think I'm an anti-social, moody cow first thing, this is true, but give me a cup of proper English tea and 30 minutes grace and I'm ready to go (hangover dependent that is).

- amazingly none of us hogs the bathroom, we are all surprisingly low mainentance, although D, the honorary girl for the duration might have a different opinion!

- one should never leave a hungover male unsupervised in the kitchen, cooking breakfast, not unless you are prepared for some breakages and the need for the hoover*.

- a ridiculous amount of fun can be had from riding on the back seat on the top deck of the bus, possibly it was due to the amount of prosecco previously imbibed, but suddenly we were all acting like teenagers.

- Americans are impossible to shake off, I blame the fact that I was wearing a bright turquoise coat and therefore was highly visible, I also wasn't trying to lose them, although it must have felt like it to them as I would dart into the road, spotting a gap in about to be stationary traffic, yelling 'this way' over my shoulder.   Really not the done thing in Germany where the greenman rules, or America where jaywalking is penalised.

- some people are more even handed when it comes to sharing a bottle of wine between a number of people (no names, no pack drill).

The next time the majority of us are together will be this weekend, I'm quite sure when we have finished rehashing the London trip we will want to talk about the possibility of a next trip.

* Dyson actually, but that's being pedantic.

Monday, December 3, 2012

(Only) Girls Allowed* Part I

This weekend was the girlie trip to London and much fun was had by all.

It started well, we all managed to arrive at the airport at roughly the same time, before the check-in gate had opened, which necessitated a sit down and a glass or two of wine.

KM had booked our flights and had very sneakily booked our seats, I can't remember the last time I got to sit in the front row because when you fly with children you're never allowed to. We were a party of five, the front row (and every other) is six seats, that meant that someone had the misfortune to sit at the end of our row.  Poor Paul, he very manfully put up with KP's flirting for the duration of the flight, I think the wine on board (although not as good as the wine in departures) helped.

The trip between the plane and H's was remarkably easy. I say this because I am reknown for my dislike and almost pathological aversion to public transport, yet here we were onto one shuttle train, then onto another train, before having to hail a cab for the last leg.

The rest of Friday evening passed in a blur of chilli and prosecco, V was the first to bail followed quite soon after by E, and I'm not completely sure whether I crawled into bed at two or three, what with the UK being 1 hour behind Germany.

Saturday started really early, which was surprising given the hour at which most of us went to bed and the quantity of prosecco consumed, I'm sure that by 8am most of us were sitting curled up on the sofas**, nursing mugs of tea.

Mr T provided breakfast, after he'd scooted out to the local supermarket for a selection of newspapers and proper squidgy English bread (we all get enough of the über healthy stuff back in DE). And what a spread, sausages, bacon, baked beans, tomatoes, toast, eggs, mushrooms - heaven on a plate.

The first stop for us girlies on Saturday was the supermarket, for us Brits it was essential, where we could stock up on things like ginger nuts, Cadbury chocolate, Jelly Babies and pre-rolled marizpan, for the two Yanks it was an introduction to English tastes. After abandoning our many shopping bags in the care of Mr T we scarpered off to catch a bus***. We seemed to wait ages for the particular bus we needed, but we were kept entertained what with E refusing to let us take photos of the MI6 building just across the road and the hoard of Santas that came past.

E and KP were having a cultural day, going to the V&A for the ballgown exhibition, while I was given responsibility for the virgin Yanks. We started off in Sloane Square where the Sally Army was playing, life doesn't get much more Christmassy than that!   From there we pootled along King's Road, in and out of little boutiques, managing to make a few purchases**** along the way.

We were due to meet the others in Covent Garden at 4pm which necessitated a tube trip (yet another form of public transport!) I was so proud of myself that I found the tube station (google maps, love, love, love) got the three of us onto the right train and off at the right stop, without losing anyone (glad I wore my bright turquoise coat).

In Covent Garden we started our evening (a trifle early perhaps, but not as early as we'd started on Friday) H is a member of a rather fabulous club, the Crazy Bear, all red leather sofas, black and white flock wallpaper, subtle lighting and discreet waiting staff, heaven.

This probable highlight of the weekend was followed by a bit of an anticlimax. We'd decided to get changed before going out for the evening's entertainment and while we were doing that we'd get take out, delivery curry (something that is impossible to do in DE). The curry was OK, not amazing, but then you don't really expect that from a take out. The big disappointment was the onion bhajis, they had to have been the onion bhajis because everything else was clearly labelled and identifiable but they looked more like some weird dumpling and didn't taste as if they'd ever seen an onion let alone touched one.

The evening's entertainment was provided by the Crazy Horse Cabaret, actually that's a lie. The best entertainment came from people-watching the audience in front of us, clearly very, very drunk and quite happy to be the centre of attention for their large group and I guess not caring that the rest of us then had something to talk about. Which speaks volumes for the quality of the actual show that we'd paid to see. We all knew, before hand, what the Crazy Horse Cabaret was about, it's Parisian showgirl routines, but none of us expected that the show would start with tits out and continue on and on and on. One routine after another, tits being shaken around and around, quite frankly when you're female you have your own tits so you need a little bit more to the entertainment for it to be entertaining. To be honest we were mildly hacked off from the beginning, first the wine was nasty, verging on undrinkable, then we were turfed out of the seats we wanted because they were reserved 'for the press'...those two smoochy smoochy couples that took our seats were not press, no way.

However, the failure of the cabaret to entertain didn't ruin what had been a great day, But I do think it unlikely that any of us will be recommending it on to others!

* Mr T (H's other half) had to become an honorary girl for the duration, I don't think he found it too arduous.
** Actually there's one sofa and one totally gorgeous chaise longue, which I covet.
*** I know, a bus! Trains one day, buses the next, there was no stopping me, muniphobic one day, flashing an Oyster card the next!
**** Christmas presents only, I promise, we/I were on our best behaviour!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Snaps 139

In London for the weekend with some girlies, this is the view from the 'b&b', which can I highly recommend, but more of that another day!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Party Party

I am a good time girl.

I love a party. The whole thing, thinking about it, planning it, inviting people, putting lists together, deciding what to wear (always the number one priority) what to eat, what to drink, the music, as I said - the whole shebang.

Since moving to Germany we've had a few parties, there was the Royal Wedding party which was R's fault, she was desperate to watch the whole day, thought it'd be great to share with people but didn't have a big enough TV - even the press got wind of that party (thanks to another friend). 
Then following on from that there was the Jubilee party, not quite the day long champagne fest that the wedding had been but fun despite the rain (it wasn't only London that got that crappy weather). 
Next weekend is our third Christmas Cocktail party (a friend (Ian, that'll be you) insisted that it was an annual tradition and he would happily time his trip over to the Weihnachtsmarkt to coincide with it.

One German lesson M and I got onto the subject of parties, what makes a good one and why do so many German ones (in our opinion) miss the mark, (personally I think they take it all too seriously, and don't relax) then there was a kerrching moment. 
You know how in cartoons a lightbulb appears over a character's head?
It was just. like. that.
Why didn't we set up a party planning business? There's no initial outlay, only time and our creativity, and it could be so much fun, so why not?

Today we went 'live', first we had to get everything approved by some Amt or other, on the off chance that we make enough money to be taxed.
The Facebook site is available for all to see as is the Tumblr site*, so now we just have to it and see, as Aqua said "Lets Go Party"

* Tumblr is some modern new gizmo that can be used like an electronic noticeboard I think, according to a friend of M's, Tumblr is the current way to self promote, and you don't have to pay a website hosting fee.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Under the influence

One balmy summer evening there was a group of us at Lulu's for the monthly expat quiz night.

Normal behaviour at quiz nights is drink and chat, quiz, bicker about who got what right or wrong, more drink and chat, then home to bed.

This particular evening followed the same routine, no surprise there, but where it deviated from the norm was that in the morning six or so of us woke up thinking, "did we just make fairly firm plans* to go to London to see naked men**?"

And the rest is history, or it will be this time next week, seeing as we intrepid five fly off on Friday afternoon.

The planning was pretty speedily done, thanks in part to our keenness for our little Ausflug***, it was helped along by the fact that we didn't have to organise accomodation as one of the six, H, actually lives in London and KM was quite keen to book the tickets on a specific card (points mean prizes).

So that was it, flights booked, husband kicked out of London for the weekend, all husbands/children in Germany organised, tickets for the Saturday evening show booked (not Naked Men, but Crazy Horse Cabaret instead) and even the train tickets to get from the airport into central London are booked and waiting for collection, what can possibly go wrong?

Apart from the fact that two of the travellers are U.S. citizens who will get stuck at immigration while the rest of us, as British passport holders, wont.

Apart from the fact that one of the travellers has extreme allergies to so many food groups she'll be lucky if she gets anything other than salad with no dressing for three days.

Apart from the fact that two of the six passionately hate shopping, and where are we going? Central London. Which is full of? Shops...

Apart from the fact that the longest time we've ever spent in each other's company was maybe five hours of dragon boating and here we are planning three days of enforced sisterhood.

Apart from the fact that one of the group was demanding to go dancing while the rest of us were more inclined to bar hopping.

Then add into this the actual composition of the group, we have two yanks, 4 brits, 1 scot, 4 bloggers, 1 blipper**** and 2 non shoppers, but the one thing we do have in common is friendship, that and a love of having a good time, so we should be fine.

Watch out London, we're on our way.

* diaries were consulted and dates organised.
** Naked Men Singing to be precise, it's a legitimate show in London, honest, you can google it if you don't believe me.
*** der (or possibly die or das) Ausflug - little trip/excursion
**** so there's absolutely no chance of "what happens on tour, stays on tour"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Snaps 138

The Christmas market opened last week in Essen, so we felt obliged to go, afterall guests expect us to know where the best stalls are...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

2012 Award for Bad Mothering

Goes to me!

I am officially crap in the art of being a mom, you'd think I'd be better at it by now, wouldn't you, afterall Ben is 15, so much practice and still rubbish. Ho hum.

Let me list my misdemeanors...

1) Constantly trying to feed children food stuffs they don't like, carrots and chewey meat (Jas) sweetcorn and tomatoes (Ben). I have clearly given up trying more adventurous foods, I'm merely listing here the things that on a weekly basis both are forced to eat, because I think it's good for them.

2) Not restocking the fizzy drink stash from the Getränkmarkt* which means if they want to drink anything other than tap water or fruit juice they can't. I don't restock as often as they want because in my opinion there are healthier things to drink, also, I don't drink any of that stuff, if they're so desperate for it then they can come with me to the shop and help haul the crates from the car to the shop and back**.

3) Sometimes there's no apple or orange juice in the upstairs fridge for breakfast, usually because one of three people finished the last bottle and didn't replace it from the store in the cellar. Not really my problem, I rarely drink apple or orange juice, I do make sure there is enough in the house though.

4) Ben/daddy finished the cereal. Always my fault, always.

5) The top that I wore yesterday isn't washed and ironed already. How slack am I? I refuse to do the ironing more than once a week. I'd not do it at all if I thought I could get away with it, but no, every Friday afternoon I get to smooth wrinkles out of clothing.

6) Not waiting in my car at the school on time. It takes 20 minutes to walk between our house and the school. Ben seems capable of doing this without help, Jas is a lazy moo. Monday I had a German lesson later than usual and so was still engrossed in the subquamperfekt*** when the phone rang, "where are you?" "just leaving to fetch you" I bluffed "so you should be" came the cheeky retort.

7) Jas has a brace that she has to sleep in, she keeps taking it out in the middle of the night (the dentist is NOT happy) so as I go to bed I check it's still in, if not then I wake her and make her put it back in. She doesn't like this being woken up nonsense, but I equally don't enjoy getting a tongue lashing from the dentist.

8) The clementines are all mushy/dried out. I am clearly supposed to check them before I buy them, haven't worked out how that is possible, without getting thrown out of the shop for fruit molesting.

9) Someone ate all the chocolate in the fridge. Guilty as charged. I buy it for the people in the house, but if I hear it calling to me then I will eat it (in secret, when they're in bed)

10) Today I made my son late for school. Not on purpose, I'm daft but not suicidal. Jas has two days a week when she has a first lesson, Ben has one day a week when he doesn't have a first lesson. This morning should have been a lie in for Jas and a get up early/normal for Ben. Except that I got them both up at the same time. Oops. In my defence, as soon as we/Ben realised I offered to drive him to school at the same time as pointing out to him that the lesson he would be late for was French, which is not his favourite. I'm sure I haven't heard the end of it.

* large warehouse style shop that only sells fizzy pop, bottled water, beer and basic wine.
** all the bottles are recycled, you take them back to the shop, get your money back and buy more, it increases the hassle but is better for the environment.
*** or is it the plusquamperfekt? German grammar, shudder.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

34 days to go

At the weekend my eye was caught by a number on a website, it said that the number of days to Christmas was 37...

That couldn't be right, that sounded far too close for comfort.

So I checked (the internet might be the font of all knowledge, thanks to the great god wiki, but its disciples are notoriously fickle and are wont to change facts at their whim) and I was shocked to find out that Christmas IS just around the corner.

How the hell did that happen?

I mean, I understand the laws of space and time etc. but what I don't get is how I went from being über organised with a Christmas present list* under construction and some presents bought to the flat out panic that was induced at the weekend.

I blame Al.

I emailed her children (whose names are on my list and who will therefore be getting presents from me, don't worry, they're too old to still believe in Santa) to ask for suggestions as to what I could get for them, and one of them blabbed to mommy dearest, who told me in no uncertain terms that I was getting ahead of myself and should take more wine. So after the initial flurry of activity nothing has happened, the list has stagnated and now I have to get my act together because otherwise gifts will be late (not the end of the world I know, but German punctuality is clearly rubbing off on me, not that I was ever slack in the time keeping department)

On the other hand, presents aside, Christmas plans are proceeding at a steady rate...

# Christmas cake is hic-ing to itself in its foil coat, awaiting its marzipan slip before it gets its royal icing frock on for the the big day (note to self, source 'ready to throw onto cake' marzipan - this will require the aid of a friend or a trip to a (not) supermarket that I don't usually go to)

# first lot of mincemeat has been made, will be made into mincepies this week which I can freeze and then make more mincemeat (have only one jar suitable for the storing of mincemeat). I foolishly put my name down to take mincepies to Jas's Christmas thingy at school, it's worth it just to see the parent's faces as you try to explain the concept of mincemeat that isn't actually meat.

# Christmas crackers are hiding somewhere downstairs (I admit, I have forgotten exactly where they are) This is an issue every year, because crackers on Christmas day are essential in my book and you can't reliably get them here and nor can people flying over bring them as hand or hold luggage (something to do with the fact that they go bang I think). Personally I'd have crackers on Christmas Eve too but as I only have 6, carefully sourced crackers (thanks Emma & Hannah) we will have to make do.

# The first Sunday of Advent is December 2, I had a mini panic when I thought it was this coming weekend (can't you just tell I'm an atheist) but google tells me Dec 2 and who am I to argue. I have the candles for the Advent 'crown', just have to put it together next week sometime. You probably think this odd, a household of atheists having an Advent crown, I blame Jas, who is turning more German every day. The Advent crowns are pretty essential to any German household during December and as I'm not averse to lighting candles why not? Admittedly our crown isn't crown shaped, being more of a rectangular nature and it also doesn't include any of the traditional greenery, ours is full on sparkly, but it does have four candles.

# And the diary on the run up to the day itself is full (which might be a problem) This weekend we'll go to the Essen Christmas market, the weekend after I'm away on a girlie weekend in London, the weekend after we're having a Christmas cocktail do (seems to be becoming an annual event), the week after is an evening of carols at friends and the weekend after is literally the weekend before Christmas (a Tuesday this year). Time is running away.

As long as it doesn't snow before Christmas, everything will be OK. If it snows, as it did two years ago, then the world slowly grinds to a halt, although everywhere does look very festive! Can't have it both ways I guess.

* this being the list of presents I need to buy and probably send off to people, as opposed to the list of stuff I want (complete with website addresses and article numbers to make the list as fool (i.e. husband) proof as possible)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Snaps 137

Late night last night, partying down at Lulu to celebrate a friend's birthday, much fun was had, much wine was drunk and much nonsense spoken.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I hate wearing a cycling helmet. I suffer from really bad hat hair, so the only time I'm happy to wear my helmet is when I'm cycling for exercise, safe in the knowledge that I'm not going to stop anywhere and have to take off the offending head gear to reveal reshaped hair*.

However, with children you always have to think of the example you're setting and so each bike in our garage has an accompanying helmet. Children here take a bike test in their last year of first school and part of passing that test requires a fully functioning bike with lights (they get checked by the cops) and a helmet.

The kids seem to start off quite happily wearing helmets, it's only when they get older and suddenly need to appear cool that the problems start.

My 15 year old doesn't use his bike regularly, I think it's more used in situations when he needs to go somewhere and he doesn't want to be seen being dropped off by mom or (probably the more likely scenario) doesn't want me to know where he's going**. But when he does go out it has become apparent that the helmet is being left behind.

He was planning on going out with friends this afternoon on their bikes, to dig out an existing bunker (don't ask). He'd be back too late to babysit for the neighbours at 6:45 he said.  To which I put my foot down, it'll be dark by 5:30 I told him, you have to be home by then.   I was informed that he had lights (well, his old bike did, whether he transferred them to the new bike I don't know, although I was planning to check before he left) and that he'd be on the roads...and how that was supposed to put my mind at rest I don't know, German roads to my mind are not very well lit, if he'd said "I'll wear a luminous vest and ride on the pavement" I'd have been happier.

Then I brought up the subject of the helmet.

I thought I had a good argument.  As you can see from the side bar, I blip (I have blogged about blipping if you're curious) and someone who also blips 'fell off' his bike last week.  He doesn't know what happened (I don't think he's innately clumsy) one moment taking his turn to overtake a stationary bus, the next in an ambulance.   But like any blipper would he clearly thought 'well this will provide at least a week's worth of blips', so day 1 was in the hospital - a very dramatic, bloody shot.  I showed this series of graphic photos to my too cool for school son, in the faint hope that this would give him pause for thought and he might realise that the ugly helmet had saved this guy's skull.

No such luck.

So I wasn't looking forward to this afternoon, the prospect of watching the sun disappear as I waited for my darkly clad son to return through the gathering gloom, while the bike helmet waited in the garage.  Fortunately one of the friends cried off with a bad headache and the digging out of the bunker clearly requires all boys to be there at the same time.  Phew.

Angst postponed, until another day.

* I should point out that I happily confess to being vain and that my hatred of head wear is not confined to bike helmets. The only time I wear a hat is if my ears are in danger of freezing off due to sub zero temperatures or if the sun is so strong that I might get sunstroke.
** Damn secretive these teens, they make 007 look like a Girl Guide.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Picasso meets Putzfrau*

Saturday morning I had to go to school.

I foolishly volunteered to help with the 'renovation' of Jasmine's classroom**.

Fortunately it wasn't a hideously early start, only 11am, but I can think of pleasanter ways to spend a weekend morning.

The majority of the classrooms 'belong' to a class for three years, so it seems to be the thing for the class to put their stamp on the room, a sweet idea, but then the incoming class has to either live with the bileous yellow and slime green of the outgoing class or nag their teacher/parents into doing something about it.

The children were allowed to choose the colour that we had to paint (they weren't allowed to help) which is why I guess we ended up painting over bileous yellow (the vomity green was allowed to stay as it was only on one wall and most of that wall is window).

But just because the children had the choice didn't mean the parents were silent on the matter.

Oh no, these are German parents, they have a (very vocal) opinion about everything. The emails were quite amusing (that's if I understood them correctly!) One mother was concerned that the 'mint' colour favoured by the children was rather 'psychedilic' when combined with the blue floor. Then there was the mother who invoked the F word, feng shui...she was ok with the light blue and mint suggested by the children, but thought that maybe lilac could be introduced as well. She was keen however to retain the existing bileous yellow because "Feng shui experts say that yellow represents the earth and thus generates heat and a feeling of home"...The next mother to email the group pooh poohed both Fung shui and psychodelic concerns, stating clearly (and concisely, shall have to try and befriend her) that surely as the children get to spend most of the time there, then as long as they are happy with the colour choice, fine.

So after weeks of debate finally it was the day of reckonning and everyone turned up in appropriate clothing (I had wisely taken the precaution of buying a disposable overall, having used them before when I painted the kitchen, others had 'proper' work overalls) apart from the one mom who seemed to think a pink fluffy sweater, jeans and Uggs were ideal. The tasks soon became divided by sexuality, as the women took to cleaning windows and the men to unscrewing stuff and filling in holes, afterall the surfaces have to be prepared before the child friendly colours can be applied.

I'm not sure when, or even if, the windows were last cleaned but the dirt on the frames was so ingrained that it could only be shifted by special sponge style dirt erasers, I managed to drop one out of the window, oops (we were on the second floor, that didn't get retrieved) and with three huge windows to clean we got through two packs of six of these fancy erasers. By the time we had finished the windows the menfolk had taken over the painting and the first coat was done.

I was there for two hours, long enough to have done my bit and certainly long enough for my slothenly weekend inclinations, wont have to do that again anyway!

* Putzfrau = cleaning lady
** bear this in mind the next time you're complaining about the cuts in education, bet you don't have to clean and paint your kid's classroom?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Snaps 136

Christmas cake, stage 1, soaking the very dry fruit in copious amounts of brandy. This is never cake for the under 18's!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Me and Mr Williams

That's Robbie Williams clearly, there can only ever be one Mr Williams.

I have long had a soft spot for Robbie, although not during his Take That years, saw him at Knebworth about 10 years ago and although it did take us almost all night to get out of the car park, it was still an amazing experience.

But this week I feel even closer to Robbie. Both he and I have been cast aside, cut adrift by BBC Radio 1, because we're too old. His current (number one) single has not been put on the station's play list because they say 'he's too old'. The single is however on the Radio 2 playlist, so maybe I should retune my radio*.

A couple of months ago (it feels longer though) Radio 1 ditched my favourite DJ, Chris Moyles. It was dressed up as a mutual agreement, and between you and me I think he was ready to jump but that doesn't make it any easier to bear. I used to enjoy listening to his show whilst out walking with Logan and then at the weekends downloading the week's podcast. Now that pleasure is gone and I don't feel I can, or even should, switch my allegiance to the new breakfast DJ, Nick Grimshaw, because the BBC made a huge song and dance about his appointment, wanting to appeal to the younger audience, they clearly don't want me anymore.

And I can't be alone in feeling abandoned, I was surprised when my brother was here in the summer to hear him express his similar disappointment at Chris Moyles' imminent departure. There was a shared feeling of 'where do we go from here?' 

This is uncharted water. I have always listened to BBC Radio 1, my dad worked for the BBC so it was kind of a given, and I have grown up despising commercial radio because of all the advertising. Yet now I feel almost as though I'm not allowed to listen, as though it's off limits and out of bounds, just because I've had the temerity to grow older. 

But what can I listen to? The black box was being coy the other day and when I was trying to find Radio 1 it offered up first Radio 2, so I selected it. It wasn't on for long, Steve Wright was the DJ, I detested him when he was still young enough for Radio 1, he's just as irritating now but now plays music from the 60's, and I'm still averse to commercial radio.

So I'm lost and adrift, paddling frantically on the trail of decent music.

* Except that it's not one of those old fashioned radios with knobs that were easy to tune, this is a black box that's connected to our computer and so to select anything to listen to takes a great deal of patience, button pressing and scrolling through menus - either that or a technologically adept teenage son.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Snaps 135

Somehow I managed not to post a snap last Sunday...very odd, seeing as I thought I had.
Anyway, here's this week's offering.
It was Allerheiligen on Thursday, a bank holiday in this area to allow everyone time to go and buy a revolting floral arrangement to put on their dead one's grave, this is one of the more tasteful ones.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Halloween seems to have lasted forever this year. Or a week anyway.

It started a week ago, there was a party at the Irish bar in the Düsseldorf altstadt organised by the American Ladies Club (or whatever their title is). As Americans take Halloween far more seriously than the rest of the world we knew it would be a good party and it didn't disappoint.

Everyone, without exception was dressed up, from the mundane (green wig and weird mask) to the traditional (Blues Brothers) to the ridiculous (I'm not sure which was the most odd, the flock of six or so flamingos or the woman wearing a silver outfit that was supposedly an American football trophy)

When it came down to it though the traditional won, Julie dressed as a zombie, it was the eyes that did it, she'd got some spooky contact lenses from somewhere and whenever anyone asked for her photo she rolled her head to the side and just stared in a very undead dead way - perfect!

After the judging of the fancy dress the evening kind of went downhill, but in a good way...with karaoke.  Fortunately (or maybe that should be unfortunately for those with sensitive ears) enough beer had been consumed by this point to loosen inhibitions, I have a vague recollection of singing something by the Spice Girls, and a far more firm memory of a friend murdering a Backstreet Boys number as her husband winced alongside me.
As I said, the party was in a bar, the rest of the bar was full of 'normal' punters who were quite bemused by the flamingos, showgirls and vampires that walked through the main bar to get to the loos - but I think we raised more eyebrows walking along the street to and from the car park, afterall it's not Karneval time yet.

Sunday was pumpkin carving time, I heard a report on the news that 90-95% of pumpkins sold are used for carving, I can believe that - in England & the U.S. however here?  They tend to buy the pumpkins and display them whole...kind of looks like an arty display at a harvest festival, odd.

Wednesday itself was Halloween, Jas and her friends went out en masse, but so did most of the children.  She complained that they didn't get much but I think that the concept of trick or treating here is still in its infancy and while the children 'get it' the older generation haven't got a clue. We had loads of kids turning up demanding sweeties, which was fine as I was well prepared, I have my trusty sweetie bowl (smuggled back from England about three years ago) and pumpkin lights for the window which date back to when we lived in England, then of course there were the pumpkins on the wall acting as beacons to all the little scroungers. But this year I took it one step further, I dressed up too, hooked, witchy nose, black witchy hat and cloak as well, the children weren't impressed.  Clearly the unwritten and unread rules state that only those begging for sweeties are allowed to dress up and entertain themselves.

Meanwhile no. 1 son took himself off with a mate to cause mayhem with chinese firecrackers, having chosen not to go to the party they were invited to because some of the (13-14 year old) girls were intending to bring vodka so that they could get drunk the way they had at the party in the summer (at that party the parents of the girls had to be called to collect them as they were falling down drunk)  Consequently I spent the evening giving away free sweets and praying not to get a call from the cops asking me to come and collect my hellraising son, whilst awaiting the call from Jas to go and collect her and her stash.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Always wear matching undies

I've had problem with my left foot all summer, I know what the problem is, I've had it before, it's plantar fasciitis.  I blame it on wearing flat sandals with no support for long periods during the summer and then running on it when it was already slightly injured therefore making it worse.  Silly me.

I'm rarely ill and don't like going to the doctors (I blame my mother) and so I put off making an appointment for well over a month, finally however I bit the bullet and went.  He agreed with my diagnosis and asked whether I'd had it x-rayed to prove what it was when I last had it (he clearly forgot that I'd lived in England...can you imagine an NHS G.P. sending someone for an X-ray to prove why they had a hurty heel?)  So the outcome of that appointment was a referral to an orthopaedic doc who would then X-ray and I guess recommend a path of treatment.  That appointment is in a week or so, a popular doc with all the local skivers I guess.

In the mean time I had a 'Heilpraktiker' referred to me, something I'd normally steer well clear of - give me drugs and 'proper' medicine anyday, but as the referee told me that he specialised in chiropracty (which I like) and also in the treatment of foot injuries, I thought I'd give him a go.

I used to visit a chiropractor in the UK, on account of having a wonky pelvis and a spine that curves in two dimensions and not just one (should donate my skeleton to medical science*) and I was always fully dressed during the hands on consultations, while he made my vertebrae go 'knack, knack, knack' and this came to mind this morning as I was getting dressed, black leggings, black undies, blue bra, t-shirt, thick tunic/jumper.  I was more concerned with getting a t-shirt whose neck line didn't show under that of the tunic than matching the bra and pants, afterall, with Si away, who's to see....little did I realise I would spend at least five minutes in my underwear standing on a lightbox.  Yes, a LIGHTBOX.  Having a professional holding my hips and getting me to bend over at the waist...should definitely have worn bigger pants, forget about matching them to the bra...

A lightbox has to be the most unforgiving light to view one's shortcomings in, everything looks dimpled, I think I may have shut my eyes.

After the lightbox procedure I was able to cover my miss-matching underwear (and cellulite) so that he could start the treatment.  Ultra sound was used to 'encourage' cream into the flesh of my heel, then both feet were manipulated, I hesitate to use the word 'massage' because I'm quite sure you don't feel the need to scream during a massage and as a finale, the icing on the cake, he stuck a needle into my heel.  He did ask and he did warn me, but I'm a total wuss, and this did not prevent me from yanking my foot out of his grasp with a yelp...I gave it back and endured the torture though, I thought I was doing OK until he commented that now he would depress the plunger.

Now I have to return to my Hausarzt (the German G.P. equivalent, with similar fire breathing receptionists) and ask him for a referral back to my Heilpraktiker so that then I can (hopefully) get the health insurance to pay up at least a percentage of his fees, while the Heilpraktiker makes some special insoles for my shoes to help my poorly heel recover.

Shall remember to wear more sensible (i.e something with greater coverage) and matching undies next visit, but at least they were clean!

* but not just yet, eh?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What's the Password?

I will freely confess that I can be quite forgetful, I don't think I always have been (although I could have forgotten!) but I certainly am now, maybe it's an age thing.  
Anyway, I regularly find myself having to repeat trips back to the cellar to get something I already went down for and then forgot, buying lots of miscellaneous things from the supermarket yet going home without the one item I went for and of course there's the ongoing issue of not remembering the word I want to say (understandable when talking in German as I mightn't have learnt that word yet, but sometimes even the word in English proves elusive).

To such a forgetful mind the modern day need for passwords and PINs is hellish.   But I think I've just about got a handle on it, although whether I can remember my UK card PINs on the girlie weekend to London at the end of November remains to be seen.

The new twist on this modern day problem comes in the form of Jas, who at 11 is as technologically capable as me (i.e. she can use it but the technology isn't happy about it) then factor in the scatty attitude of a 'tween'* and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

The girls all seem to have the same accessories, mobile phone and ipod, all with lots of games and apps on them, if one finds a new game you can guarantee that shortly after they will all have it, they sit together, swapping gadgets, playing each others games, making videos of each other and generally larking about.

I have never put a password/code on my phone or ipad, partly though fear of forgetting it but also because I don't need to, if either is stolen then I know that there are ways of hacking the phone/pad that render the code useless and also because my children are old enough to leave my stuff alone**. Jas however started putting passcodes on her stuff this summer, it s probably a trend amongst her friends. She started out with the simple 4 digit passcode
system that came with the phone, then progressed to a pattern of dots within a grid and then to a word and then back to a number.  Truly a disaster waiting to happen.

Saturday evening Jas stayed at friends, 6pm I had a call from a phone number I didn't recognise, it was Jas on her friend's phone, she'd managed to lock herself out of her phone.  You only get so many attempts before the system gives you a time out, the more you wrongly try the longer the timeout, I have a friend whose small son managed to lock out an iphone for years. 

Jas was quite upset because she'd also managed to lock herself out of her ipod...quite what help I was supposed to be I don't know seeing as I wasn't actually there and as far as I knew her last password (at noon that day) had been "JAZZ" and yet now it was apparently a number.   I calmed her down as best I could, seeming to leave her more cross than upset (how dare I, her all knowing mother, not know what four digit number she had input into her phone) and promised to sort it out on Sunday when she was home.

An hour or so later my phone binged with a message, from Jas, or to be more precise, from Jas's phone, they'd managed to remember the code, or rather Jas's friend had remembered the code (which begs the question, what's the point of having a code if all your friends know it?)  The ipod was a different matter though, clearly a different code!

A quick search in the app store on my iphone shows 135 apps available for passcodes, I do hope Jas doesn't download anymore, I do hope she's learnt her lesson...knowing my luck she'll forget all about the evening!

* tween is an actual word (trust me, you can Google it) describing the age between childhood and adolescence, 10-12 years old.
** I have a friend who has three children, all younger than mine and she does have passcodes on phone and pad, however she has to change them regularly because the sneaky kids have a strategy for finding out the codes - they each spot a number, none of them has to discover the whole code, just the part of it that they are responsible for, 007s in training.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Snaps 134

Not once, but twice in the papers last week, not bad at all for the team that came last (and they made no mention of that in the write up!)
We really did rule the Ruhr.  
Bring on 2013's Drachenbootrennen we say, we're not scared.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

France Part Deux

Last week we didn't just torment our elder son by going to Paris, oh no, that wouldn't be evil enough, we also dragged him (kicking and screaming) to Eurodisney, where to pile on the humiliation, I booked us into the Disneyland Hotel, you know, the big pink palace-y looking one...My logic being that this could well be the one and only time we do the whole Disney thing* so we should do it 'properly'.

The Disneyland Hotel is amazing, it's huge for starters, with all the staff dressed in salmon pink Edwardian/Victorian outfits (knickerbockers and floor length frocks and frills) there's valet parking and those luggage carts that I've only ever seen in the movies, then there's the two (or was it three?) restaurants, piano bar and the essential shop (wall to wall Mickey 'n Minnie). 

But the overriding impression of the hotel was the smell.

It was (to me anyway) a faintly unpleasant odor, but the children claimed it smelt of 'old lady' and I can see what they mean, it was a sweet, powdery perfume that clung, fortunately it wasn't too noticeable in the actual room but in the huge reception area it was very pervasive.

We had a family room capable of sleeping five, but isn't it funny how, no matter that the hotel knows the ages and sexes of the children they still fail to realise that a 15 year old boy and his 11 year old sister are unlikely to want to share a double bed, fortunately the sofabed was quickly made up and every night someone from houskeeping turned up to make sure the sofabed was ready to be slept in and every time they visited they left behind special Disney chocolate coins**.

The main problem with the hotel for me was the fact that it was full of children.  In a normal hotel you wouldn't assume that everyone staying there would have children with them, at Disney it's pretty much a prerequisite, which is fine, or would be fine, except for the fact that all the parents seemed to have relinquished all hold on behavioural boundaries. Running, screaming and tantruming*** all seemed to be allowed and ignored.  Working in the service sector takes a certain kind of person, working in the service sector for Disney?  Another level entirely.  On the other hand the youth of hotel guests did provide amusing sights, three foot tall Eeyore and Woody chasing each other along the corridor and literally every other little girl at breakfast dressed as her favourite Disney princess, cute if surreal.

I had 'forgotten' to tell Ben about the highlight of breakfast.  During the 2-3 hours that breakfast is served there are Disney characters available for a cuddle and a photo opportunity.  I didn't tell him because I thought there would be a good chance that he would just call room service and never come out of the room, instead he was forced to run the velour gauntlet although I'm sure he averted his eyes so as not to contaminate his retinas with Mickey Mouse images!

Jas and I came out of breakfast one day and found Tigger at the fireplace.  I have a soft spot for Tigger, something to do with his irrepressible springiness and the fact that he misspells the word 'tiger'.  Jas thinks Tigger is OK but wasn't fussed about getting a photo and a cuddle with him...I was, so I forced Jas to stand in line with me and then to have her photo taken with Tigger, poor child, probably mentally scarred!

Eurodisney itself is compact and bijoux, big enough, but not the monstrous sprawl that the original U.S. parks are.  Ben refused to set foot in either the Walt Disney Studios park or the actual Eurodisney, and in retrospect I can see his point. He's not a huge fan of big, scary rides and everything else is geared towards those who love Disney and cartoons, I don't think we saw any other teenage boys in the parks, loads of kids and adults but teenage boys?  No.

Disneyland is an oddly magical place, I found myself grinning for no reason, I am convinced they pump something into the air, it can't be natural to have such a happy face (or maybe I've lived in Germany too long?)  We watched the parade and the special end of day 'Dreams' show, which was enthralling and we managed to introduce Jas to Princess Jasmine, and of course we met Mickey.
I think by the end of our few days there Jas was Disney'd out, she slept almost all the way home (five hours) and then went straight to bed and slept through another 8-9 hours, she was either knackered or suffering withdrawal from the Disney Magic!

* the last time we did Disney was Florida, 11 years ago and we stayed off-site.
** which I got to eat, because this being France, the coins were rather nice dark chocolate which neither child will touch!
*** if when you win a medal you've 'medalled' then surely if you're having a tantrum you're 'tantruming'?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Out of Puff

the co-conspirators
As alluded to in yesterday's blog, this was the weekend of the Dragonboat race...                                                   We all had a great time, didn't win, didn't come anywhere close to winning*, apart from in the style stakes.  The programme had clearly stated that there would be a prize for the most creative (or something) costumes, this was interpreted by all the other teams as matching T-shirts (how original), santa hats (in a variety of colours it must be said) or scarves (so very German) the only team that came close to rivalling our creativity were all clad in Roman get ups, but as they were shop bought and didn't stand out to the degree that our fluorescent pinkness did, we discounted them.
Emma, me & Hannah
We had three races in all, with three different 'steuermen'**.  The first and third were both great fun, not feeling embarrassed in the slightest by a boat full of crazy female pinkness, they even obliged by shouting at us in English (helpful for Hannah, as she's no expat & only knows enough German to order beer or wine & even that's debatable) the second steuerman was dour to say the least, most unamused by us, so I made a point of thanking him for his 'help'.

Marissa & I embarrassing her sister
Embarrassing another child

I'm not sure what confused the locals the most:
Pink Girl Power
- the brightness of our outfits?  As a team we all had to be there earlier to register and collect our number, blah blah blah, so our families were all joining us riverside later on, I don't think any of them rang asking "where are you?  I can't see you".  In a sea of black Jack Wolfskin (we've entered the winter practicality clothing zone) our bright pinkness stood out like a huge sore thumb - I think most of us actually had sore thumbs at the end of the day, they get bashed into the side of the boat if you're not too careful.

- the name of the team?  We had to come up with a team name very quickly in order to register to race, speed was of the essence and we (Karen & I) went with "Puff the Magic Dragon".  In the UK and the US Puff is known as a resident of Honalee, here in Germany he is unknown, and der Puff (am guessing that it's der, could be die or das, it's honestly not a word I use frequently, if at all) is the word for a there was a boat of women, expat women, all clad in hot pink with black leggings and tutus and the team name Puff/ it any wonder that our menfolk refused to sport matching logos?

- we weren't taking it seriously, no star jumps or stretching prior to races for us, no personal  special little foam seat thingies either (as Hannah joked, we all had enough rear padding) in fact when told we had to race the third time straight after the second we whined like children who'd had their chocolates stolen by the school bully, we wanted a drink and we didn't want more Ruhr water, we wanted beer.

To be honest it's a miracle we made it to the finish line once let alone three times.  When Karen and I first conspired I emailed all the expat girlies asking if they wanted in, and it looked as though we'd have too many people, we only needed 10 plus a drummer afterall.  But then two couldn't make it due to holiday schedules, another pulled out (quite understandably) with a last chance to visit London before relocating to the other end of the world, another had a business trip unreasonably extended, if someone had called in sick we'd have been sunk, up s**t creek without a paddle.  We had one training session*** that only four of the actual people in Saturday's boat made it to and one of those ended up drumming.
No names, no pack drill...ssshhhh

My son made some comment at the end of the day (he made it down to the riverside for the first race and after permitting**** a photo with his pink clad mother (oh, the mortification) I let him go home) that I'd left my pride in the boat...because we came so far last I guess, but we always knew we couldn't win, I don't think any of us hoped to come 20th, but where's the shame?  We did it for fun, to have a giggle, to spend time together - my personal mantra has been for a long time,  "life is too short to be taken too seriously", yes, there are occasions when you do have to knuckle down and be sensible and earnest but Saturday was so not one of those times, Saturday was all about GIRL POWER!


* in fact we came 20th, in a field of 20, however we were the only boat with a fully female team, on the other hand the boat from the children's home had at least 2 kids in it...but did we run and hide our faces post race and pretend we'd never taken part (as some others did)?  Did we hell!  We crowded around making as much noise as a large group of women will demanding beer from our men folk (see above)
** the steuerman steers the boat and is equipped with an ear piece and mike so that he can shout stroke timings at us, at least I think that's what they shouted.
*** we had planned none, at all, I did say that it was always the taking part that was more important, but reason took over, at least ensuring we knew which end of the boat was the front end (afterall they're both pointy)
**** he's gets very snitty about photos being taken without his knowledge, anyone would think he was worried that I'd abuse his trust and put them on the internet...