Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Personal stylist anyone?

The British are often criticised for their lack of style (here in Germany as well) but personally when it comes down to the least stylish nation I would probably put Germany in the top 5, maybe even the top 3...I'm not being mean merely observant.

I'll give you my justifications:

  1. When I started inviting friends to come along and celebrate the Jubilee at a garden party and advised them that as my house would be dressed then so should they be the girls immediately started considering their wardrobes, whether they had a suitable frock or whether a shopping expedition was called for.  The couple of Germans I've invited (after all this is an English celebration and therefore more suited to expat fun) I felt I had to be more explicit about the 'dress code', because if they turn up in jeans they (the girls) are going to feel really out of place, as I'm quite sure that there will be at least one hat making an appearance.  You see we Brits (and I include the Commonwealth countries here) know how to dress up and how to dress for the occasion.
  2. The wearing of black (head to toe) in winter and then white the moment the sun appears in spring is not stylish when everyone one does it.  It becomes a uniform.  The world (and the shops) is full of pretty colours outside of black and white, and no, grey and beige and greige are never fashion/style statements.
  3. Ugly feet are a sin, probably not one listed in the bible but as I'm a fully paid up atheist I can make up my own list of sins.  If you have to wear sensible (i.e. ugly but comfortable) open toed sandals to accompany your white or greige outfit then please have the decency to either paint your toe nails or get a pedicure.  Naked toes are quite simply, naked.
  4. There is a style of linen clothing available here that I had never come across before moving to Germany tending towards 'sack'.  There are tunics that come to mid thigh and skirts and trousers that come to mid calf and all seem to have a fake wrap around look to them (even the trousers) and all of course come in 'natural' hues, i.e. shades of brown, grey and black.  All are meant to be worn together and teamed with godawful ugly shoes that have cork or wooden soles with their seams on the outside.  There is a shop here in Kettwig that sells this stuff and only this stuff and has managed to stay in business for at least three years so far, so the locals clearly like it.
  5. A friend of mine (Welsh) got married to a German a few months ago, she was so concerned that all the non British guests would turn up looking as though they'd wandered in off the streets that she had the wedding in Britain and themed it, 1920's, so that everyone had to make an effort.  Seriously, I've seen photos of weddings here and it's upsetting.  The first thing a Brit does on receiving a wedding invite is plan the outfit, hat, shoes, bag, dress, accessories...the whole she-bang.  Here, people look as though they came from work.  Another expat friend plans that should her German boyfriend ever propose then the wedding will be in the UK and there will be a dress code.
  6. Socks with sandals.  Almost as heinous a crime as naked nails in book.  No, no, no.
  7. The wearing of a scarf, all day, every day, come rain or shine, winter or summer is not a fashion statement.  It is repetitive and boring and also completely unnecessary, and if you have a sore throat it will not make it better. 
  8. When we were at the theatre on Sunday we rather enjoyed passing comment on the (lack of) sartorial elegance parading past.  Marianne voiced the thought, "Do you think there's any demand for personal stylists here?"  Now the answer to that is clearly that the need (in our eyes) is there (shorts to see Cate Blanchett at the theatre? No!) But that the people needing pointing in the right direction and steering away from the greige don't realise what they're doing wrong and so would never think to go to a personal stylist and have their wardrobe...enlivened.
Phew.  I'm glad I've got that off my chest.

Monday, May 28, 2012

From the ridiculous to the sublime

This weekend was a cultural extravaganza, Saturday was the Eurovision Song Contest (or Grand Prix as they call it here, to the confusion of those Eurovirgins at Sexpat Emma's party, where are the cars they asked) and Sunday was proper theatre at the annual Reckinghausen Arts Festival.

The Eurovision party was great fun, everyone got into the spirit of the evening by dressing up to represent their favoured country, and very un P.C. we were too, Nana Mouskouri was there for Greece, both Russia and Azerbajan were represented by hookers, Germany had her boobs on show in a dirndl, Spain had even managed to convince her husband to dress up (admittedly Russia had her pimp alongside, altho I think he was channelling sport rather than sex) the most the other males could manage were shirts of appropriate colours - but at least they were there, at a Eurovision party (drinking beer on the terrace & monitoring the bbq for the majority of the evening it must be said, but they were there). Sweden had on a Swedish ice hockey shirt, Ireland was clad in orange, white and green, Norway had one partner in white the other in red, France channelled the clothing of the French entry (itsy bitsy hotpants) and I was regal in purple with matching crown for the United Kingdom.

I don't think there were many of us there who could say we watched the whole of every entrant, although everyone watched the Russian grannies (5 (or was or 6) elderly ladies dressed in age appropriate Russian garb, combined age apparently 484, I'm sure one of them had no teeth) they were...entertaining although I think Jedward for Ireland, embodied the Eurovision spirit more - for heaven's sake, they were dressed from head to toe in silver lamé suits, they performed handsprings and cartwheels and had a huge fountain in the centre of the stage (the song was titled "Waterline" I think...) it doesn't get more Euro than that.

But the results showed the same old story, countries voting for their neighbours.  Which is why the U.K. ended up 2nd from bottom while Russia was 2nd from top. Sweden won with a song that would (and maybe will) be quite at home in the clubs this summer, a good choice.

Sunday and Sing, Marianne and I had tickets to see Cate Blanchett in "Gross und Klein". A German play written in the 70's, set in the cold war era, but performed in English by an Australian theatre troupe...and not just 'a play' either, but a 'plot-free' piece of theatre, I wont bore you with details but the review in the Guardian is bang on. Cate is incredible, mesmerising, and a damn good job too because the actual story...hmmm, was there a story?

I loved the staging of the play, minimalistic and very clever. But I'm saved the dilemma of deciding whether to recommend whether people shoild go or not because I think it's sold out!

It has to be said that we had as much fun before the show and in the (way too short) interval* people watching and passing comment on the fashions, no that implies more style than was observed, clothing worn to the theatre on a hot, sunny evening** and also indulging in the new Scott Mills game. I heard this 'game' first being played on BBC3's coverage of the Eurovision semi finals on Thursday***. Scott Mills and Sara Cox (both Radio 1 dj's) were compering the show for the U.K. audiences and Scott suggested to Sara that they play the game he and his friends play when on holiday, "gay or european". You see a person and have to say whether they are gay or european (european I guess because some Europeans have a certain style and way of dressing and grooming themselves that might lead the casual observer to think that they're gay.)  A totally un P.C. game I know, but in my defence I heard about it from a guy who is himself gay, so if he thinks it's amusing to play then where's the harm?   We played**** this on Saturday night (afterall the Eurovision song contest is a notoriously gay fest) and picked it up again at the theatre, but on Sunday I suggested the modification of 'european or non european' to avoid the possible embarassment of being overheard and understood (the play was in English afterall, although with German overtitles*****).

All in all I think my weekend has balanced itself out. An evening of totally trashy TV followed by an evening of such dense culture that I'm good for the rest of the year now!

* the play is almost 3 hours long, and we had 15 minutes to get down (and then back up) maybe four flights of stairs (we were fourth row from the back, right up in the gods) and then queue and queue and queue for a drink (27C outside + no A/C inside + a meandering, hard to follow plot = cold caffeine intake mandatory).
** but I think more on that in another blog, there's so much more that can be said about German clothing choices.
*** hadn't planned to watch it, but it becomes a little addictive.
**** played implies possibly more action and commitment than actually occurs, all that is required to participate is pointing (surreptitiously if out in public) at the 'victim' and asking "gay or european?"
***** as in up above the stage, rather than at the bottom, along the edge of the stage, where they mightn't be seen.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Snaps 115

Last night was Eurovision, I went to Sexpat Emma's Eurotrash party dressed to support the U.K.  You may get more details later in the week, but for now there's just me, being all regal.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Shhhh....I think it might be summer

I wrote this draft a couple of hours ago, sitting in my garden under a sun umbrella, saved it and at that point the stupid damn ipad app decided to think about saving thought and it thought and told me, finally that it had done it.  So off I trotted to carry on with my chores (post office, supermarket, bakers, chemist, dry cleaners - you get the picture) secure in the knowledge that all I needed to do was come home and check through for rogue apostrophes and typos.  Only to find when I logged onto the laptop that no such draft existed...could've turned the air blue, but restrained myself because the sun is still shining and it's just a little further over the yard arm now and therefore just a little closer to Pimms o' this won't be quite what I wrote earlier because alas and alack I donot have a photographic memory (which explains the 2:2).

I was thinking about what a good summer I have lined up for me, it makes me smile just to think about it....

The first thing that makes me so, so happy is that I'm going to be getting together with my three bestest girlfriends, not all at the same time (that would be pure overload) but consecutively (thank goodness for spell check).  First off is a weekend in Rome with Al, who I last saw in August, we chat every week (or aim to) and each time usually for an hour or so, about nothing important, we're not resolving world peace, just keeping each other sane.  We could, I guess meet at hers in England or here in Germany, but we've decided on an all out girlie weekend in Rome (in two weeks time, 14 days and I'll be there) can barely wait, just need to plan what to take (as well as the Lego Mindstorm).  After Al I'll be seeing Helen in Spain when we go on holiday.  I've known Helen since Uni and our children have known each since forever, so we get to chat, catching up on the previous year and drink as much Rioja as humanly possible while the children try to drown each in the pool (tricky seeing as they all swim like Olympic medal winning fish).  A week after we're back from Spain another ex Uni friend comes to stay with her children.  Three great friends to catch up with properly all within the space of three months - an embarrassment of riches.

The second thing that is putting a smile on my face (apart from the glorious weather that means I have to finally abandon socks and boots and can happily wiggle my toes* in the fresh air) is that I have a fairly busy social diary ahead of me:

This weekend is the Eurovision Party over at Expat Emma's (or Sexpat Emma as we like to call her) which will be heaps of fun, trust me.  Sunday I have theatre, Cate Blanchett is coming to Recklinghausen to perform in something, I can't remember what, but when a friend asked if I wanted to go see her perform I jumped at the chance - it's got to be better than John Malkovich who I saw the last two years (mad as a truly mad thing).

The following weekend is the Queen's Jubilee and although we don't get the benefit of the four day weekend (we have that this weekend, although it's nothing to do with HRH) we will be celebrating here with a proper English garden party, I'm just praying the weather stays fine...

Then I have my weekend in Rome, after that my parents are here for a week, taking over dog walking duties and ironing I hope, as long as I keep them supplied with cake and ice cream, that's the usual deal.

When my parents have gone home we have Jas's Abschlussfest (end of term, end of school, we're going onto to bigger and better things kind of party, that starts mid afternoon and goes on until the parents finally manage to drag their children home)  I am determined that this will be a fun event and not too serious.  In fact I am so serious in my determination that everyone will have fun that I seem to be helping organise along with my Polish friend (us foreigners do stick together) to this end there will be copious quantities of beer and wine.

After the Abschlussfest I think we have only one week of term left before the summer holidays start and a week later we're in Spain.  The six weeks of the summer holidays should take care of themselves, two weeks in Spain, one week with friends here and my brother, Mr Mudlog is planning to visit - he wants to assault the local biergarten he says, I guess life in Saudi can be pretty dry.  The children will be delighted to see Uncle Ed (despite his bad habit of training them to go fetch him beer from the fridge and open it for him) partly because he has the ability to behave in a childish manner** and partly because he owes them both at least one present, if not two.

So as you can see, I have good reason to have a wide smile on my face.  The future's bright, although personally I wouldn't describe it as orange, more a bright sunny, summer blue, the kind that makes you screw your eyes up it's so bright.

* this is only when the toe nails have been painted.  I do not approve of toe nails being flaunted naked.  If they're out and about they need to be dressed and pretty and woe betide any of my friends that dares to show their feet to the world bare...
** I'm anticipating much rolling of the eyes from Ben, who will quite possibly look down on his Uncle in more ways than one this year.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Frühstücking Frauen

Another week, another breakfast "meeting".

It's been ages since we girlies got together to enjoy each other's company for breakfast, at least a week. Although, technically last Monday doesn't count because it was a spur of the moment thing, organised soley for the express reason of celebrating KP's birthday.

Our Villa Landleben breakfasts (or 'Villa all you can eat' according to KP) are
about every 6 weeks (we booked the next one as we were leaving today, the last week of term before school's out for summer - I shall be singing that all afternoon now!) today's was a quietish affair no KP (work, outrageous I know, you'd think girl power would come first) or Anika (on holiday, a way better excuse than work) or Princie (flown the expat nest forever, sob sob) although Emma brought along Laura (a two year old after my own heart, never goes shopping with mommy unless she has her own Cath Kidston (no less) bag and matching purse on her arm) who was happiest when all eyes were focussed on her, you have to admire a girl who can still look chic with Nutella smeared from her eyebrows to her clavicles (she'd have gone further but mommy was being a meany and refusing to let her strip to her Pampers in public - the Germans would have been straight over to tell Emma that she (Laura, not Emma) should be wearing a vest and socks and probably factor 50 too*). So there were 5 1/2 of us today, the smaller group size didnot effect the quality of the conversation however.

- KM regaled us with her exploits in Bruges last week, they turned up on Ascension day, not realising that there's a huge procession in Bruges on that day when religious artefacts are paraded throughout the streets for all to wonder at (there's blood stained clothing that supposedly belonged to Christ) they had a great time in the area, Bruges is beautiful with or without a parade.

- Emma is still trying to find a house to buy, tempted by the Angermond area, despite (or maybe because of) the naturist beaches around the 'lake' there.  And RR has been looking for houses for Emma but finding ones that she'd like for herself!

- Lots of chatter about the forthcoming Eurovision party, who's wearing what (all the men are refusing to dress up) and who's bringing (foodwise) what. KM has chosen the host Azerbaijan and is bringing something for the bbq, as I've chosen Engelbert the hump, the UK's entry I shall take sausage rolls. Emma has opted for Greece and is on the hunt for some Nana Mouskouri big glasses, I wonder if she's already got the big kaftan. It could be a fun evening.

- Problems with little boys fibbing about homework, why do they never learn that they will always be found out?  And why do the teachers seem to think that parents are deliberately misleading them.  We want our children to learn at school and we understand that homework is a part of that, but if a child says they have no homework or that they've already done it, part of you wants to believe them.

It wasn't such a long breakfast this morning, Emma was delayed due to having to take her other half in to work, Rebecca had to leave early because she had furniture being delivered between 11 and 12 (I hope it turned up on time, shall have to check) and I kept expecting my phone to ring because my darling husband had decided to leave a note on the door saying (in German) "dear mr bike delivery man, if there's no-one home can you please call this number (my mobile phone number)".  Great, I was clearly supposed to drop everything and come haring back if the delivery man rang.  As it turned out he didn't ring and it's doubtful he could read, as the parcel was left with my neighbour.  At least it's here. 

It's a hard life, but someone has to do it.

* it's HOT here today, summer at long last. If you didn't have the heat as a clue and were just staring out of the window you'd quickly realise that summer was officially here - the locals are out of their winter black and into their summer white, for a country that doesn't like uniform (apparently dates back to Hitler and his brownshirts) they do their damnedest to adopt one, black in winter, white in summer and greige if you're old.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pippa Middleton - eat your heart out.

Last week was Jasmine's 11th birthday, the Tuesday to be exact.  At the weekend she had her party and she went into party planning overdrive.

It used to be that I planned the whole shebang, set the date, arranged the do, the cake, made the invites blah blah blah.  But this year I didn't have to do anything (unless specifically ordered to, that is).

Jas decided she wanted a sleepover*, this limited the number of guests she could invite which was OK by me, I suggested we take everyone down to our favourite Italian restaurant for dinner (less hassle for me) but this also limited the number of guests to how many we could fit in two cars (I wasn't about to suggest that they all walk - what if it rained?)  Eight were invited (handwritten invitations by Jas) amongst this number one brave (or foolish) boy.

The party was to start at 4pm on Saturday and the children were to be collected at 11am on Sunday.  To fill the intervening time Jas wrote out a timetable (3 times), almost losing her temper with me when I told her the time I was booking the meal for (5.30, to make things easier for the waiting staff and other patrons) this apparently didn't allow enough time before the meal for all the planned activities, now I realise that she possibly gets her attention to detail and adherence to time from me, but normally she doesn't give a damn if she's not on time/making me late...

Saturday morning was spent cake making and icing and then in partying up the house (this didn't involve hoovering as I decided that could wait till after the party) and trying to keep track of Jas's changes of clothes.

By 4.30 we had a house full and it was time for cake (German birthday party rule number 2**: cake is done at the beginning of the party, any attempt at re-ordering results in confused children) lemon cake with lemon icing as requested by the birthday girl, that apparently is 'everyone's favourite' (personally I'd have gone with chocolate and more chocolate, but I'm clearly behind the trend) we sang "happy birthday"***, candles blown out and cake eaten (or not, half the little buggers sweethearts only ate the top, iced part).  Then they proceeded onto the present opening ceremony and I cleared the cake debris.

5.30 and we were at the restaurant, trying hard not to wind up the poor waiter who had drawn the short straw and had to deal with us, 8 slightly over excited children and 2 weary adults (although we sat on a separate table, close enough to advise but not 'with' them).

I think they started to watch the first film around 7.30, they suddenly all re-appeared at 9pm, charging around the garden like sugar fueled 10 year olds.  They refused to go back to their film until they'd cooled down (quite how racing in circles around the house was going to achieve that goal I don't know).  They managed to cram two films and a penalty shoot out**** into their evening before I somehow got them into bed. An hour later, after I'd confiscated all ipods and iphones and read them the riot act twice I went to bed.

At 8am it all started again, they were breakfasted and dressed and before I knew it out in the garden again (sorry neighbours, it wont happen again, seriously, it really wont).  I made them wait until 10/10.30 to attack the Pinata, in the knowledge that that would be noisy, we also needed the grass to be dryish from dew.

Finally, finally 11am approached and parents started arriving to remove their offspring, bliss.  Jas, being a sneaky little madam, managed to con a friend's mom into taking her to play at theirs for the day, so getting out of the tidy up operation, very sly.

So now it's May 21st and both children's birthdays are dealt with.  Sigh of relief.  Except that I seem to have decided to throw an English stylee garden party to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, so that's the next house invasion to organise, and that will involve far more children, at least they'll all have their own responsible adults with them to keep them out of mischief!

* one of those long drawn affairs when not much actual sleeping occurs. 
** German birthday party rule no. 1: never, ever party before the actual date of the birthday, it is considered the utmost bad luck and you will forever be marked down as a foreigner who doesn't try to fit in.
*** or at least we (the Brits) sang "happy birthday", the Germans sang "heppy birs day", same tune just a slight pronunciation glitch that they ALL do.
**** Chelsea were playing Bayern Munich in Munich, the Germans all thought Bayern would win, needless to say there were many glum faces in Germany that night.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Snaps 114

It's a lovely warm Sunday here, not a good day to be wearing a fur coat in the sun.  Cute and family friendly he may be, sharpest knife in the drawer?  I don't think so.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


* or how vanity changes everything

As I sit to write this I realise that what I seem to talk about most is eating and drinking with my friends...hmm, possibly giving entirely the wrong idea about my life, it really isn't all 'party,party' I hope you realise, you are only getting the (heavily) edited, condensed and (hopefully) interesting usual 24/7 is filled with mundane crap like laundry, dog walking, grocery shopping and arguing with children, but that'd make for dull reading.

Anyway, back to the plot. Last week it became apparent that one of our expat girlie friends (KP) had a birthday this week. For some stupid, crazy reason she hasn't, over the past few years celebrated her birthday, I suggested that we should all get together and one thing led to another and on Monday at 9:30 there were 6 girlies (+ 2 kinder who were so quiet and well behaved they were almost invisible, indeed if I didn't know the mother better I'd have thought they'd been bribed or drugged) gathered for birthday brunch in KM's house to mark KP getting another year older.

Now, we girlies know how to frühstück, we know that time and a leisurely pace are required, as are vast amounts of coffee, good bread, fruit, maybe chocolate mousse (eh KP?) and of course good company and ribald chat.

For a celebratory do (as this was) mimosas** were added to the menu, and as this was at KM's house and she must be the daughter of the goddess Kenwood***, the extras looked sublime (I can't qualify this statement because the only thing I dared to eat was a dry roll and a croissant...oh, and a skinny slice of chocolate cake (I was like the uninvited guest who doesn't deserve any of the proper food and has to make do with crumbs****) but there was an egg/ham casserole/bake thingy and a french toast creation that had extra apple and rum and spices (that seemed to be very popular) and a salmon pizza looking thingummy that I would have eaten the whole time...we've already advised KM that due to her prowess as BBH (birthday brunch hostess) she's booked for the last week of September/first week of October when not one, not two, but three of us girlies have birthdays and if I'm ill the day before I shall just stay in bed and sulk.

So that's the good food explained, now for the (ribald) chat;
- RR to KP; "did you get my text, checking you were OK" (there had been a car accident and RR was concerned for KP)
- KP; "I really need to start wearing my reading glasses all the time, I thought the text said 'F**K' "
It will be a while before any of us uses that abbreviation without laughing.

- then, somehow we got onto the subject of tattoos, what on where, which became "what would one have tattooed on a penis".  We never discussed the why question, the idea of what the picture should be was far more amusing,

copyright W&V.

I am quite entertained by the idea of Pinocchio as in this Sixt ad on an air bridge at an airport.  And from tattoos it was a simple hop and skip onto piercings - ears, eyebrows, nose, lips, navel, nipple etc. shudder, it was the "etc." that gave more pause for thought.

The morning flew by, but as Monday mornings go I would have to say it was definitely one of the better ones and we have another frühstück next week to look forward to, no birthday this time, but the setting will make up for that lack as we're back at Villa Landleben and I must remember to book a table for when my parents are over, or there will be hell to pay.

** I think that's American for Bucks Fizz, but as I wasn't drinking (you can tell I was poorly sick the day before) I didn't pay much attention to the constituent parts, I just stuck with the fizzy water (I'm glad my parents are out of internet range, they wont be able to read this embarassing confession)
*** there has to be a goddess of cookery (pre Nigella), surely?
**** clearly I could, and normally would, partake of everything on offer, but having spent the day before alternating between sleeping and visiting the loo, I thought my stomach needed a quiet day.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Exploding Hummer

Saturday I had a girlie lunch date.

RR is off to Cuba in the summer hols and apparently the most common food there is lobster. The only slight problem is that RR is allergic to various seafood and she really didn't want to discover that she was allergic to lobster whilst on holiday.

Then she discovered that the local fine food wholesalers "Frische Paradies" was doing a lobster lunch on Saturday and invited us girls to go along, she needed someone else to drive as it's hard to steer whilst vomiting into a bucket at the same time.

There were four of us, but only KM had serious experience with lobster having lived in one of the southern U.S states for some time.   I had also never had lobster (was served it at a French wedding when I was pregnant and so (politely) refused it, the other (French) guests couldn't understand me, turning down lobster, champagne and cheese - crazy English) but as my allergies include Fairy Liquid & Dior's Touche Éclat rather than food stuffs I wasn't worried.

RR spent the meal and the afternoon trying not to think about her stomach, personally I thought the lobster was OK, wouldn't put it at the top of my favourite foods list (where you'll find strawberries, chocolate, crispy duck, bacon&camembert baguette and meringues) but OK.   To be honest I thought the texture was really odd, almost airy, a bit like salmon that's been farmed and that for me was more of a turn off.   I certainly didn't feel the need to pull the legs off in order to suck out all the teeny, tiny bits of flesh, my carapace was left unstripped.

From lobster lunch we moved onto the German staple - coffee n cake, in a nice café closer to home that we've tried out for breakfast previously, but I think I prefer them for cake - a very good selection, shall have to remember to take the cake loving parentals there in a few weeks.

All in all it as a very pleasant girlie lunch, I hadn't thought to be out for 4 hours, but hey, the only thing waiting for me to do at home was dog walking.

It appears that RR isn't allergic to lobster, although she did comment that she felt as though her stomach was filling up with air.   Meanwhile I woke up at 5am on Sunday (mother's day here, ironically) with a very dodgy feeling stomach and spent the following 24 hours either sleeping, dosing or on the loo.  Can't say for sure that it's the fault of the lobster or merely some stupid bug, but as I wasn't overly enamored by the crustacean anyway it's no loss.

Word of the day;  Hummer = lobster

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Snaps 113

Today is Mother's Day here in Germany, and I do not plan to move a finger....

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Reviews #28

The Bone Collector - Jeffrey Deaver

A bookgroup friend lent me this, I don't know why, and I'm wondering how it fits into her usual reading profile too.  It's good, very good but in parts stomach churningly grisly, a book that I had to avoid after 6pm for fear of my over active imagination giving me nightmares...

I put off reading it for a while after she loaned it to me, it wasn't until another friend saw it sitting on my worktop and said how good it was that I decided to take the plunge.

The premise is that Lincoln Rhyme is an ex 'criminalist', or forensic scientist in New York.  He's an ex because he was injured through his job and is now a quadraplegic, able only to move one finger and his head.  At the start of the book he's waiting to meet a doctor who can (he hopes) help him to commit suicide without incriminating anyone else, but then colleagues call by and ask for his help with finding a woman they know to have been kidnapped with her boss.  The boss has already been found dead, buried alive with just his hand in the air, one finger of the hand skinned down to the bone in order that the woman's large diamond ring would fit onto it.

It becomes clear that the murderer is playing cat and mouse with the NYPD, leaving staged clues at the crime scene that will guide them to the next victim, hopefully in time to save them.

As I said earlier, the book is grisly, he writes at one point about the murderer cutting into the (still alive) victim's flesh and scraping the blade along the bone in order to listen to it.  This same victim is then left tied in a tunnel where there are rats, which are drawn to the smell of the fresh blood and the helpless woman.  At the same time the book is almost un-putdownable, you will be desperate to find out if they can decode the clues in order to get to the victim in time and whether the murderer will accidentally leave enough clues for Rhyme and his colleagues to work out who he is and where he is.

A great book and I'm looking forward to reading the second in the series, but not right away, I need something less gory first. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Severing the strings

I have a confession...

I never wanted children.

Now I have two, they were no accident either, my biological clock started ticking and I got all broody.  Weird, but true.

Ben and Jas are 15 and 11 next week* and my little babies are growing up, and it doesn't seem to get easier, it's just that the challenges change.

What's confusing me at the moment is letting go.  For the last 15 years I have known Ben's (almost) every move.  I see him at breakfast, greet him as he comes home at lunchtime (this is, afterall, Germany, the land of the half day of schooling), interrogate him about what he's been up to in school etc. etc.

Then he went off on a school trip to Margate (the German kids weren't impressed, I think Margate is past it's sell by date) and apart from a few texts during the week I had no idea what Ben was doing, what he was eating, how he was sleeping, if he was wearing his brace at was hideous. 

He was supposed to be on a French exchange this week but pulled out due to work pressure at school** and although I wish he were going, because it is a great opportunity to experience French life in the bosom of a French family, part of me is glad that he's not going, I missed him when he wasn't here (despite that fact that when he is here I hardly see him) so to have him here this week is an added bonus***.

All this is rather worrying though.   I can accept that hormones changed my attitude to children (although I'm not a big fan of other people's kids) so now how do I go about "letting go"?

Somehow, in the next few years I need to learn how to sever the apron strings that have woven my children so tightly into my life.   It never occurred to me that I would feel like this and it's bizarre really because I'm still keen for my children to leave home to go to university (there seem to be a lot here who go to the Uni closest to home so they can stay living with mommy) and yet I'm now sure that I will be a complete wreck when the time comes to wave the first one off.

Do you think there are classes to help guide the uninitiated along this treacherous path?  After all there's all manner of childcare courses and charities to help one gear up to becoming a parent.  Alternatively I guess, I could just ask mom, she's been through it all and now has to contend with her children living so far away that flights are required.

I still have some time to plan and prepare though, Ben wont be ready for Uni for another four years I think****, so maybe in that time I can ship him off for longer and longer periods of time, rather like some drug dependent old bag, weaning myself little by little, step by step, taking just one day at a time!

* amazing planning, they were born three days apart, thank goodness Ben is now "too old" to celebrate with a party, there were a hellish few years where we had to plan May with military precision.
** only some of the kids take French, some take Latin, and of those taking French not all opted to do the exchange, consequently normal schooling continues, including a Physics test which he is keen to take.
*** not that I've told him that of course, he wouldn't appreciate it at all.
**** I'm a little bit hazy on the German schooling system, a fact that is further complicated by Ben going back a year when we moved here and then the system here being truncated by 1 year since we moved here.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday Snaps 112

Simon's away on business in China and spent Saturday being entertained, this (unnamed) place sounded to me like China's Venice, just waterways, no roads.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thai me up, tie me down

Five and a half* of us met for breakfast today, we would have been more but one cried off due to the pressure of stuff to do (hey it happens to all of us at one time or another) another had a child off school sick, the third has abandoned us permanently by moving back to Alabama and a fourth had to work (can you believe it, work?!  Outrageous.) 

The food at Villa Landleben was as good as ever, pretty hard to go wrong with a huge buffet spread of bread, croissants, cheeses, hams, fresh fruit, cereals, smoked salmon, fruit juices...although if you want croissant it's best to grab one first of all rather than trying to get one later (as I've learnt from experience)

We had K² with us, two Karen's, either of whom on their own can talk up a storm, so the two together can be overpowering, fortunately they were at either ends of the table and KM was rather subdued due to schooling issues (she blogs too so you can read all about it here) so no-one had to shout in order to be heard.  KP was just back from a girlie weekend in Milan (with yet another Karen) it sounded as though she had a great time, the highlights as I recall included Italian men being far more forward than their German counterparts when it comes to flirting (no surprise there) gay and lesbian couples being much more open in their PDAs**  and the discovery that most Italians go to McDonalds for their coffee, whether it's better I can't comment but certainly cheaper.

Karen really made us laugh though when she was talking about the restaurants in Milan, she reckons they have a cute waiter tax, an 'I smiled at you tax', bread tax, as well as the obligatory service charge (even when the service is rubbish).  For some reason she had an urge for thai duck, quite why she should want to eat thai food when out in Italy I don't know, but she is Scottish , home to Haggish, deep fried Mars bars and Irn Bru...unfortunately for Karen the acoustics combined with her Edinburgh/German twang made KM and I think she'd wanted to be tied down, how she would then eat any thai food at all would then become an issue clearly.  It turned out that the Italians didn't understand her either because what she got was a plate of duck in orange sauce as opposed to thai duck, she wasn't happy. 

When we weren't talking about the issues we have with the German schooling system (we managed to terrify A, whose eldest is due to start after the summer holidays, but she ought to know better seeing as she's actually married to a German) it's lack of flexibility, the constant desire to fit a round peg into a square hole, the shortness of the actual time spent in school blah blah blah, we chatted about Eurovision.  E has foolishly decided to host a Eurovision fest, it started out as our families getting together to indulge in the camp "music" extravaganza that is the annual Eurovision Song Contest, and has somehow morphed into a full on Fest, we're choosing which country to support and therefore must be suitably attired and take country specific food (I baggsied United Kingdom and Engelbert, mainly so that I could wear a crown, but also so that I can take sausage rolls and cheese 'n pineapple on sticks as my country's donation to the buffet.  KM, favourite colour black, is taking Azerbaijan in order that she can wind me up by not wearing black***, KP has chosen Germany because she thinks Roman (the singer) is H.O.T & she knows who she can borrow a dirndl off (or was that lederhosen?) and the hostess is tending towards Greece because she thinks the song is perfect Eurotrash.  Should be a good evening.

* Laura at the tender age of two only just qualifies as a half
** PDA = Public Display of Affection, i.e snogging in public
*** apparently it's known as as the "land of magic colours"