Monday, 18 December 2006

Cheese please

I want CHEESE! This is unfortunate as I have no fridge in which to store it. May have to go out for pizza again soon, so that this craving can be satisfied. I haven’t worked for three weeks now. This is serious as I am not earning money. Meanwhile we are using it up like there’s no tomorrow – on a new washing machine, dryer, kitchen, lighting, eating out. Then there’s the new car we have to buy; a proper German TV that we need; nursery things…If the internet was working I could also be working. I have a client lined up, who has a list of projects for me to do. Still, the good thing is that we are going back to the UK tomorrow for a Christmas break.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

The Hof

main station in Cologne
Spent a couple of hours in a lovely restaurant with a view of the cathedral. It was called ‘Hof 18’. Given the Germans’ fixation with David Hasslehoff, I was gleeful that this might be a reference to the red-swimming-trunked one. Gleeful until Simon pointed out that ‘hof’ means ‘station’ in German and that we were near the main railway station. Great food. Tasty and nutritious. Amazing considering that everything I ordered was a complete guess as I couldn’t read the menu. We tried to get a look at the cathedral, but a service was taking place, and it was packed. Not surprising on a Sunday before Christmas.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Appropriately Christmassy walks

pretty pub in Cologne
Aaaggggghhhhhh! I have tried to use the temporary router. Trying to set up internet access when all the instructions are in German = inadvisable. When, oh when, will I get access to my beloved internet?

On the plus side, Simon and I had a nice stroll through Christmassy Cologne last night. We went to a district called Rudolphplatz – very seasonal I thought. Not only the name*, but it has a Christmas market too! The smells emanating from the stalls were very welcoming – a nice mix which brings to mind home baking – sort of gingerbread, chocolate and vanilla all at once. After walking through this seasonal joy, we ended up at an Italian restaurant. Food was great. Waiters a little hassled. Still, I had pizza, which satisfied my pregnancy craving for CHEESE!

One of Simon’s colleagues has lent us an old German TV. This has the bonus that we can get one English speaking channel, with sound. Only trouble is that it is CNN, which is sooo dull. The stories and adverts get repeated over and over and over and over again…Still, beggars cannot be choosers and it’s the only way I can get news at the moment.

* Incidentally Friezenplatz is adjacent to Rudolphplatz. I remember it by the nickname ‘Freezing place’.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Honey I'm home!

I’m back in Deutschland! Came in on a flight yesterday evening. Have spent a lovely week relaxing at Mum and Dad’s place in Norfolk. While I was there I did some of Simon’s Christmas shopping for him, so that will save time for him when we go home at Christmas. I also did a bit of a review of prams, cots and nursery items, to start feeling a bit more prepared.

When we got in the flat I was pleasantly surprised as Simon had fixed up some new lamps and turned on the Christmas tree lights – so there was a lovely ambience. He has also managed to buy a washing machine which means that we no longer have to do hand washing in the bath.

This morning I had a couple of embarrassing incidents on the way to buy some milk. 1) When I was leaving the building a man got into the lift with me. He started to talk about the different lift levels – this much I ascertained from his pointing to different buttons and doing a resigned laugh. Unfortunately I couldn’t join in. What is worse is that he is our neighbour from across the corridor. 2) Once outside I managed to fall over on the cobbled street. I think I amused an old man who was watching from the bakery. I blame my winter boots. They may have a thick heel, but they are decidedly wobbly. Luckily I fell on my knees and not on my front. Apart from the old man, a furtive glance revealed few other people around.

I have spent pretty much all day tidying up. Proper tidying, mind. There’s only so much that ambient lighting can do to make a place homely! It’s been quite exciting trying out the washing machine and dryer as all instructions are in German. Luckily I was able to feel my way through the programmes by looking at the temperature guides for each wash. Seems to have worked as all jumpers have come out at pretty much the same size as when they went in.

There is still no internet. A box arrived with the router yesterday but it was the wrong one. Simon has asked the provider to arrange delivery of the one we want. I may have to put up with this one for now as without the net I cannot work. It is nearly three weeks since I left my job in the UK and I am starting to get work withdrawal symptoms. I know, I know...! Plus, how are you meant to find anything out, talk to your friends, or keep up with the news without the net?

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Back to Blighty

I am getting the afternoon flight back to England. Decided it’s not good for me to be stuck in the flat all day with no kitchen, appliances, or things to do.

There’s a risk of food poisoning from having to eat food which isn’t refrigerated. Plus, meals are a bit limited as we only have a temporary camping stove. Washing up is done in the downstairs cloakroom sink. The kitchen table is actually our wooden garden table. The kitchen is lit by an Anglepoise lamp, poised on some of our packing cases. The balcony doubles as a fridge for milk - it’s that cold outside.

It’s getting me down and it is unhygienic.

Add to this the fact that our English TV doesn’t work in Germany; I have no landline; no internet (so I cannot do any work for clients) and the flat has only a few lights so it’s very dull.

Cannot wait to go home to some normality.

I feel bad leaving Simon and it will be a shame to be apart. However, he isn’t the one who’s pregnant and he also gets to escape by going to work each day.

When I come back to Germany it will all be a lot better as Simon is going to try to fix a lot of the outstanding problems. I’m hoping that we can then relax a bit and start doing touristy things. I may even be able to do some work! The plan is to start joining some clubs so I can start to socialise a bit.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Food for thought

Getting a bit sick of not having a fridge. We’ve been leaving the milk outside to keep it cool, but this morning it tasted a bit off. The local shop doesn’t open until 8 so we were without milk for breakfast. I was okay as I could go to the shops later, but Simon had to head off with no breakfast.

I ventured out three times today. 1) To get some milk 2) To explore – though I only explored as far as the certainty of Starbucks, treating myself to a double chocolate muffin, I like to think that I had a good look around. There are loads of food shops, restaurants and newsagents around where we live. 3) A bigger food shop for the evening meal. I was pleased as punch to find a supermarket which stocks Heinz ketchup and familiar chocolate brands (Twix, Mars, etc). Bit disappointed that the single cream I had bought for part of dessert turned out to be sour cream. That put paid to my plans for pears in chocolate sauce (a virtuous/sinful dessert of pears in a melted chocolate, honey and single cream sauce). Ho hum. What’s more, sour cream was actually listed in the phrase book I’d taken to the shop with me, but I just hadn’t bothered to read it, thinking it wouldn’t be that detailed. Oh and I dropped the sour cream on the kitchen floor – splat! – just for good measure…

Bought a couple of English papers. They cost about four pounds in total, but I was ravenous for news of home, having received none since I arrived.

Tried some stilted German on the porter downstairs. He seemed to get what I was talking about, so I felt quite disproportionately proud.

Monday, 4 December 2006

Fun with language

While Mr H went to work, I tried to be a good ‘hausfrau’ and tidied as much as I could. I couldn’t exactly lift any of the remaining boxes – not in my condition – but I sort of dusted around them! I’ve managed to put up the Christmas decorations. Was a touch nervous about the combination of Christmas lights and the use of adaptor plugs. However, they have been on all day and I cannot smell any burning!

Today two workmen came to the door. They were dressed in blue dungarees and carrying tools. Had a ‘Bob the Builder’ look to them. In German (with pointing) they insisted they needed to come in to fix the radiator. I tried to convey the fact (with English words, pointing, and a phrasebook) that I hadn’t called them and knew nothing about their visit. In the end they called an Irish guy from their office and got him to speak to me, while I called Simon who got a German speaker to speak to them. We worked out that they had gone to the wrong flat. It was stressful at the time, but seems funny now. So much for German efficiency.

Went for Thai in the evening. That’s when I realised I am better at understanding a Thai menu than a German one. I know Pad Thai when I see it! Simon impressed me with his school boy German when ordering.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Simon's castle

Supposedly a day of rest and family activities in Deutschland. But not for us. More unpacking…

Simon took me to see his work place as well. It’s an office in the grounds of a moated and walled Bavarian turreted ‘castle’. Simon’s desk is by a window that looks out on to the moat. The moat is inhabited by some rather inactive ducks, which Simon can see (and hear) from his desk. I met a couple of his colleagues who were also in that day.

Saturday, 2 December 2006

Ikea hell

The interesting thing about Germans is that they usually take their kitchens with them when they move. Unfortunately the previous tenant took his. And so with that we found ourselves joining the crowds at Ikea, with the mission of getting hold of a kitchen ASAP. Now, shops in Germany tend to close on Sundays and Ikea is no exception. So everyone has to do their home improvement shopping on a Saturday, heightening the pressure. We spent a full 5 hours in the store, which we spent like this:

  • Viewed the kitchens on display – despairing at the price (we only bought a kitchen for our UK home 10 months ago so this outlay was upsetting) and trying to decipher the meanings of the display captions
  • Retired for lunch with catalogues, pen and paper to draw up our design
  • Queued up for a very long time to discuss our requirements with the kitchen advisor
  • Pit stop for kaffee und kuchen (German for coffee and cake, which is their version of doing ‘afternoon tea’)
  • Queued to pay
  • Queued to speak to the department responsible for transportation of said kitchen

So, that was fun. To top it all, the kitchen cannot be fitted for at least two weeks. This means we have to live with no oven, fridge/freezer, or washing machine. V. inconvenient. (Did I add that we also do not have: TV, internet and telephone?)
We had wanted to buy other items from Ikea, including light fittings and a desk, but were too beaten down to bother. So guess what we’re doing next weekend?!

Friday, 1 December 2006

Is it Christmas yet?

The first day of December is normally the day I deck the halls for Christmas. Today I was slightly indisposed, what with being in another country, so the tree and baubles will have to wait a bit.

Awoke in Simon’s temporary flat where he had been staying for the previous month. We packed and settled the bill then headed for our new flat in Barbarossaplatz.

We were initially met by our relocation agent and the estate agent for the property = 4 people in the flat. But then we were joined by the flat’s manager; then two cleaners; then two people to fit the water = 9 people at one point! It all got a little bit crazy. I think they eventually left us to it at 2pm – at which time the removals company men arrived with all of our stuff. Weak with hunger and from standing since 11 (no furniture see), we left them to unload and went off to find our first meal in Cologne.

Unfortunately our depleted state meant that we were not feeling adventurous. The golden arches of McDonalds beckoned and our first meal was a McMeal.

The removals people left about 5. We were left with piles and piles and piles of boxes. Knowing that it wouldn’t get any better if we just left them unopened, we started to unpack.

We were slightly scuppered in this plan by the fact that the previous tenant had taken most of the ceiling light fittings and left dangling wires in their place. With the setting of the sun we didn’t have much light to go on. Plus we couldn’t find where we’d packed our plug adaptors, so plugging in lamps wasn’t an option either. Still, I managed to locate the torch!

What an adventure

And so begins our adventure…

The removals company didn’t turn up at our house in Essex until 2pm – two hours late. As we had to be at the Eurotunnel terminal by 5pm we just had to quickly show the removals guys round the house giving them instructions about the treatment of our precious possessions. I was a bit anxious as their English wasn’t great and my German was non existent. Having given instructions we left our house and all the packing in their care then zoomed off on our long car journey to Cologne. The journey was a very long one and I am glad it was Simon doing the driving and not me. We arrived at Simon’s temporary flat just before midnight.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Fancy Cologne

What’s the deal?

My husband’s been offered a promotion in his employer’s Cologne studio and we have decided to take the plunge and move there. As I am five months pregnant I wouldn’t have been working for much longer anyway, so it was easier than I expected to quit my job. We’re going with the intention of trying a totally new experience…

I am sitting at a make-shift desk amongst piles and piles of books. Most prominent are ones about fast cars and fast women (not mine). I promise there are more worthy ones somewhere towards the floor. So, I am surrounded by the possessions which characterise my life. But this time next week they will all be packed and loaded into a lorry and hopefully wending their way across land, sea and more land until they reach my new place in Cologne, Germany.

Arriving on December 1st, I'll be opening my advent calendar in the land of Christmas markets.