Sunday, July 15, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Unlucky 13?

Today is Friday 13th, probably one of the most superstitious days in the year.

I'm quite used to the English superstitions, having grown up with them (not that I adhere to them of course) but German ones?  Now that's a whole new ball game, here's a few I bet you haven't heard of...

  • bury your (dead) dog under your doorstep, his ghost will guard your house.
  • knock on wood to prove you're not the devil, because he's allergic to oak (it's considered a holy tree don't you know) this is why when Germans gather together around a table, rather than greet everyone individually they knock on the table.  The first time I saw this happen I was very confused, and couldn't understand how knocking on a table equated to saying hello.
  • do not walk between two old ladies, really unlucky.  Little old ladies are considered to be evil...
  • setting a loaf of bread upright on the sliced off surface brings bad luck, oops, I always do this, it stops the cut end going stale.
  • never toast someone's health with water, it means you wish them dead.  I'm unlikely to do this by accident as I'm usually found with a glass of wine in my hand but why does water indicate a death wish?  We are after all 60% water* so surely by toasting someone with the substance that is so familiar to their body you're encouraging life...clearly not in Germany.
  • spitting on each others left shoulder.  Yes really.  Whilst British and American thesps tell one another to 'break a leg' for luck, the Germans spit.  Nice.  They also say 'toi, toi, toi', better than spitting I guess.
  • bread and salt are the perfect housewarming gift.  This gift ensures that the household will never go hungry, they may dehydrate but starve no.
  • tanz in den Mai.  The 30th of April is a day that people have to dance from the evening all the way into the early hours of May 1st, otherwise the Devil will rule the world.  I knew there had to be a logical reason for the parties that are always advertised for April 30th, I knew it couldn't just be a 'joys of spring' thing.
  • when building a new house, the roofers have a ceremony of raising a green wreath over the highest point of the house when finishing the roof timbers.  A sprig of this wreath is supposed to be nailed in the attic later.  It prevents the roof from ever caving in.
  • never give a German a knife as a gift, a fork or spoon is fine, but a knife is a big no,no. It means that you're wishing all in the household dead.  This surprises me because lots of the little boys (under 10's) seem to have knives for whittling and disemboweling (joke) so where do they get these knives from if they're not gifts?  Steal them?  Find them?  Borrow them?

I could go on, but I wont.  And I know there are lots of equally bonkers superstitions in the U.K. but it's always interesting to explore another culture's foibles!

So enough of the hocus pocus and gobbledegook, Friday 13th (of July) is also my mom's birthday, so happy birthday mom, I hope your day is wonderful and that no black cats cross your path...

* I thought it was higher than that, but google says no.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sob sob

Friday was the last day of term, and for Jas and all the other year 4's it was time to say goodbye (again) to class and school mates and teachers.

What a palava.

We, parents, started gathering around 10am for the playground farewell at 10.15.  Sekt was opened and distributed, just enough to numb the pain or maybe to tip some moms over the edge.

The year 4's took their seats on the benches (good job I hadn't sat on one, I was tempted) and then the rest of the school children sat on the playground facing and in front of the leavers.

Songs were sung, including the "school song", which caused me to lean over to R and ask, "school song?"  After five years you'd think I'd know they had a school song wouldn't you...whoops!

The hip hop dance from last month's show was performed with the whole school joining in and then a final song and the flood gates opened.  Some of the girls had been sobbing too much to be able to sing but when the singing stopped and the farewells started in earnest...

I guess the problem for the children lies with the schooling system, that allows parents to send their child to any high school they wish (as long as they're accepted that is) and different schools specialise in different areas (this is Germany for goodness sake, schooling is a serious matter, even if the children are only there for half a day at a time)  If you want your child to specialise in sports they can, science also do-able, all girls and taught by nuns?  Yep, currently possible but after this year's intake boys can go too!  Jas will be joining Ben at the bilingual high school* which happens to be the closest and within walking distance, all of the other schools are outside of Kettwig and require transport.  With so many different schools available the children are all going to different places, hence the hysteria I guess.

An end of an era, from August both my babies will be in high school, what a scary thought!

* in year 8 they have history and geography taught in English, which makes it a pretty tough option for the Germans, but for English kids who are now bilingual already...It was the obvious choice.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday Snaps 121

Friday was the last day of term and for Jas and the rest of the year 4's the last day at Grundschule before moving onto whichever high school they've been accepted into, this means that many of them will never share a school playground again, cue rivers of tears, from children and parents alike. This is Jas saying goodbye to Herr B, the poor man who has had to put up with her cheekiness for the last three years.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 4th

Yesterday was a day of two halves.

I spent the morning frühstücking with my friends at Villa Landleben, the usual suspects as ever, only the matters under discussion really change. We talked lots about people's husbands and relationships for some reason, and the crappy divorce law in Germany that seems to want to encourage men to be serial monogamists. The last half hour was spent arranging dates when we could all meet up - so far I have in my diary; two breakfasts, one cocktail drinking evening (birthday celebration), one birthday drinks, one Hallowe'en fancy dress/karaoke do (can see my chances of getting Si along to that are zero, fancy dress and singing in public, his two most favourite things - not) and a three way birthday brunch.  A successful morning all round I think.

The evening was Expat's Quiz Night at Lulu.  Chris (quiz master extraordinaire) had promised that the questions wouldn't be All American (I threatened to sulk next to the bar if that was the case) but merely a celebration of America for the poor little Amis stuck over here in Europe, miles away from their Homeland.

Pah! Lying Aussie.   Every single question, all 25 of them, clung to Mr Lincoln's American plan, never again will I believe his FB commentary!

If it hadn't been for my canny choice of quiz team member (Andy, Mr Emma* himself) I would never have got the decent score of 24/25, but this was not enough to win.  It should have been, but not on Independence Day, with a quiz all about America and at least three Americans in the room, two of whom had ganged up on the rest of us.  Gloat?  Of course they did, but it's only to be expected really, and to be honest, better the Amis winning than the natives and embarassing us once again with our ignorance!

* Emma being the person who wins something on the quiz every single month**
** Apart from the Jubilee themed quiz last month, when all the expats were left with egg on their faces and their tails between their legs as the natives swept the board.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Jesus Christ, Superstar

...wears frilly knickers and a playtex bra...

well those were the words I learnt as a child.

Sunday was a busy day, I was double booked. I had already said yes to going to the theatre with my neighbour K, when my American friend KM decided to celebrate July 4th on July 1st, it makes me smile to think that she planned to celebrate early just to irritate the Germans who would be invited* but in reality it was better planning to party on a Sunday afternoon than a Wednesday evening.

The Independence Day celebrations kicked off at 3pm which gave me only an hour to eat as much American themed food as possible and chat to my friends. Such a shame that in the first hour there were only sweet things to eat (please note the heavy irony) chocolate brownies with an undernote of cloves (I shall have to wangle the recipe out of KM somehow) rice crispy squares which I haven't made since forever but which are just as yummy light years later and you couldn't taste the O neg at all**. I left just as the barbie was being fired up, meaning that I missed the burnt offerings and the small child trying to swim in the pond (a highlight for Jas, despite the fact that she didn't even witness it).

The show that my neighbour, K, and I had tickets for, was the Düsseldorf Amateur Dramatic Society (or whatever the equivalent is here in Germany) offering of Jesus Christ Superstar. They do a show every year, last year was Evita and next year is Jekyl and Hyde***, and I have to confess to some trepidation, afterall some amateur shows can be very...amateur, and I was giving up a party to sit through this.

I needn't have worried. The show was very good, Jesus was from the local Folkwang music school in Werden**** and was A-mazing, whilst Judas (the lead charcter) was a Brit.   The whole show was English and the funny thing was that I could understand the Germans much better than the Brits.   Jesus's enunciation was crystal clear, but Judas?  Although he sang very well and had a good voice, I could hardly understand what he was saying, to the extent that I joked to K that maybe my English wasn't good enough?!

I do find that it's often easier to understand foreigners speaking German than Germans, because the foreigners concentrate on getting the words out right and being understood whilst native speakers are lazy and blur their words, I hasten to add that this is surely not just with German, I am quite sure this is true of all languages.

* possibly the biggest party sin of all time is to celebrate before the date, as I have previously banged on about, it's unlucky, yeah yeah, walking under ladders I can understand (something might drop on your head) but the number 13 or wishing someone happy birthday the day before their birthdate? Nope, doesnot compute!

** there was a major catastrophe on the Saturday when KM attempted to cut a rice crispy block into smaller, mouthsized pieces, straight out of the fridge, the rice crispies proved resistant to change and deflected the knife blade into KM's wrist, there were by all accounts, rivers of blood and only the fact they they have a close friend who is a doctor and who came by and glued KM back together, kept the party planning on track and KM out of the ER.

*** wasn't aware that that was a musical, learn something new every day, don't you?

**** which makes him sound as though he was a kid of 17/18, he wasn't, in the UK you'd think he was a mature(ish) student but here in Germany the life of a Uni student can go on and on and on. I'd put him at mid 20's.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday Snaps 120

Jas found a four leafed clover the day before the back garden was de-turfed in order that it could be worked over to aid drainage.