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!