Thursday, 28 June 2007

English to the core

Just speculating, but is it a mark of my Englishness that my most used German word is 'entschuldigung', which means 'sorry'?

As in:
'I'm sorry I bumped into you.'

Or, my more English:
'I'm sorry you bumped into me.'

Monday, 25 June 2007

Bringing up our baby right

An hour and a half from Cologne there's a Grand Prix race track called the Nürburgring. When it's not being used for races, anyone can pay to do laps around the track. As a group of friends from England ('Hello guys, you know who you are!') planned a trip to the track for the weekend, we said we'd join them, in order to catch up.

looking out on the trackWe only have a Clio and the other guys had more powerful cars, including a Subaru and a Lotus. So Simon took a few lifts around the track with the boys. I, on the other hand, took to driving a perambulator around the local cafés* with the girls...

We all stayed in a hotel which looks out on to the start of the track. Here you can see April and me on the balcony of our room. April is doing her, 'Wait 'til I get my hands on that paparazzo!' pose.

On the Sunday morning we watched a motorbike race from our balcony. You can see the start of the warm up lap here:

See the man waving the flags. Running towards powerfully fast vehicles, flapping his arms like a bird? What an unusual way to make a living.

PS *And no, I still haven't got bored of my new hobby of visiting cafés.
PPS Here is an account from one of the couples who went on the trip too.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

It's raining...let's do icecream!

You may have noticed a sweet-toothed theme running through my blog. To do with ice cream and chocolate and my liking of such things.

Anyway, the weekend just gone, our friends Claudia and Robert from Holland ('Hello!' Claudia and Robert if you're reading this) came to see us. As it was sunny we decided to go for an ice cream sundae at a good ice cream parlour I know. When we arrived there were no free tables. We had to space ourselves strategically in order to pounce when someone vacated a table. Claudia found a free table so she wins the prize.

We ordered some fantastic sundaes. However, no sooner had they arrived than the heavens opened. It turned from being sunglasses bright to torrential downpour. 'Safe' under a flimsy parasol, we decided to be very British and stuck it out. Not that the parasol was a defence when the rain started coming down sideways.
ice cream in the rain
Halfway through our desserts we realised that we were the only customers left. As you will see from the photo with the empty pram, even April seems to have scarpered for more substantial cover. She's probably already more German and practical than us...

Friday, 15 June 2007

Learning German

'Harris and I had been hard at work on our German during several weeks at that time, and although we had made good progress, it had been accomplished under great difficulty and annoyance, for three of our teachers had died in the mean time. A person who has not studied German can form no idea of what a perplexing language it is.'
Mark Twain. The Awful German Language, Appendix D from the book 'A Tramp Abroad', 1880.

I have been struggling with my German - grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. It hasn't improved much since the entry 'Sorry my German is not so good'. I feel that every time I enter a shop, I am reliving the awkwardness of my French GCSE oral exam. Each transaction is reduced to a role-playing scenario. Along the lines of, 'Hello mister baker man. I'd like a kilo of oranges please.' If you would say such a thing to a baker. I have to work out in my head ways to say what I need before I reach the counter. So, I was pleased to find that a literary genius no less than Mark Twain* found German very difficult during a tour he made of Europe...

  • 'I never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.' Notebooks, 1870s
  • 'I don't believe there is anything in the whole earth that you can't learn in Berlin except the German language.' Notebooks, 1870s
  • 'In the German it is true that by some oversight of the inventor of the language, a Woman is a female; but a Wife is not - which is unfortunate. A Wife, here, has no sex; she is neuter.' The Awful German Language

*Born 'Samuel Langhorne Clemens', American writer, 1835-1910
More on Wikipedia...

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Someone's happy

April, at six weeks old
Someone's happy! But why?

  • Perhaps because she just received the exciting news that she has a new baby cousin? He was born yesterday lunchtime and he's called William. He's the second child of my brother-in-law and his wife. Congratulations Phil and Liz! This means April now has three young cousins: William, aged 1 day; Blake aged 8 weeks; Lily aged 3 years. April hasn't met any of them yet because she has never been to England, where they all live. However, that leads me on to possible reason 2...

  • She has just received her only six weeks old. It was a bit of a tricky process getting the passport as there was paperwork we had to get from the UK and then we had to entice her into posing for a passport photo that was good enough to pass the strict standards required. Anyway, the cute baby passport means April can go to England. And she will, as we are planning a trip back in the summer. Very exciting :-)

  • Of course, it could just be that she has passed wind. Again.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Hollywood, Lollywood

Yesterday was a public holiday so we had a relaxing family day. In the afternoon we took a quick stroll around the block to get some fresh air. We were intrigued to see that our local grocery store had been invaded by a film crew, making the most of the fact that all shops close on public holidays here. There were three large trailers parked outside and lots of people making themselves very busy, rushing between trailers and the store. Inside I could see more people going hither and thither. A couple of people were crouched down inbetween the aisles, going over their scripts. The aisles were elaborately lit with big lighting rigs. Obviously I played it cool and pretended to be more interested in the flower shop next door. We carried on walking.

Early that evening our door buzzer rang. It was people from Sony Pictures. They wanted to know if our balcony faced the road - because if it did they were willing to offer us money to use it as a place to fix some lighting for the filming. Now, it's not every day that film people come to your door and offer you money.

our balconyBut guess what? Our balcony doesn't face the road. It faces other flats and an office block across a courtyard (see pic of the view from our balcony). So we had to turn down the offer of some free lolly...

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Lady lunches

In the last five days I have visited two ice cream parlours, two cafés and one cake shop with various friends. I feel I have truly arrived as an expat ‘lady who lunches’. I have various excuses for such excess, such as that the weather is nice and you have to make the most of continental al fresco eating while you can; or that I need extra calories to feed my baby; or that the cake shop has a deal on…

At the weekend Simon and I spent some time with our friends Rhod and Anna from England. They have a house 5 minutes walk from our house in Essex. However, in a bizarre twist of fate, Rhod recently accepted a job in Cologne. He now spends his week days in a hotel 10 minutes walk from our flat. Small world. Rhod – should we be scared that you’re stalking us?

Pink DavidOne of the cafés we visited with Rhod and Anna is outside the modern art gallery. We spent a very pleasant Saturday afternoon there, to the sounds of a string duet which had been laid on for entertainment. From the café there are good views of the plaza which leads to the river, the main feature of which is this rather *cheeky* statue which is a modern take on Michelangelo’s ‘David’. (See the dark haired lady and the lovely man-shaped 'hat' she is wearing.) You will see April’s pram in the picture, to the bottom left. Obviously we made sure she was facing away from said statue. You can be too liberal with your child’s education you know…

PS – The sculpture is by Hans-Peter Feldmann. It is 6m high and stands in front of the Museum Ludwig and the Cathedral. It seems the 'Pink David' has caused quite a stir on Flikr.