Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Without a song or a dance what are we?

April and I go to a little session known as ‘Baby Musikgarten’ once a week. It’s an hour of singing, dancing and bashing of musical instruments for little ones. April really enjoys it. I guess that is because she has yet to learn about shame and embarrassment. Her mother knows all about these though, for her mother was the sister who couldn’t sing*.

As the sister who couldn’t sing I have traditionally held back from public singing whenever possible. I am afraid this even counts in church, where I admit to miming and standing next to those with all the talent.

It is curious that in this country where I have no past, I have now been able to reinvent myself as a woman who will sing in public (albeit sotto voce). Furthermore I will sing songs to which I do not know the words and cannot even guess what they look like, what with them being inconveniently 'in foreign'. I must sound quite awful.

Now that I am overcoming my fears I am finding these musical sessions interesting for myself, rather than just as April's responsible guardian. I am certainly learning a lot of basic vocabulary, both through the songs and small talk with the other mothers (one has to be able to apologise when one’s baby sticks her fingers in another little darling’s eye). I am also building up a repertoire of German songs.

Here is an example of a refrain we covered in today's group:

Hopp, hopp, hopp,
Pferdchen lauf Galopp!
Über Stock und über Steine,
aber brich dir nicht die Beine!
Hopp, hopp, hopp,
Pferdchen lauf Galopp!

It is a song about a little horse (a Pferdchen) galloping along over sticks and over stones. All well and good until the fourth line, where it warns the little horse: ‘…but don’t break your legs’. So, it isn’t just the English who can lay claim to darkness in the nursery is it?
Listen to the rhyme here…

*In stark contrast my sister is so good at singing that she sings in a band.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Food for thought

Isn't it amazing what we humans find to eat from our large and bounteous planet? I guess, if you wait long enough, whatever it is, someone will eat it.*

Last night we went to an Italian restaurant near to our flat. I selected a dish described as 'angler fish in a truffle sauce'.

Let's break that down.

Angler fish: a predatory large and ugly fish which lives in the very deep sea. It lures its prey into its mouth by means of a fleshy protusion from its head, which it can twitch to look like something small and appetising (ie bait). Sometimes the protrusion can emit light to make it even more fatally attractive.
(As a point of interest, in some species of angler fish the males attach themselves to females like parasites and then the two fuse to such an extent that the male exists only as a pair of gonads, ready and waiting to deliver sperm whenever the female should be ready for such romantic attentions.)

So far, so yummy.

Truffles: fungal tubers which grow underground, near tree roots. These growths produce a smell which is meant to be a bit like that of the male pig sex hormone. Truffles are particularly unattractive lumpy blobs - in that sense, not much different to angler fish then.

Double yum.

Why did I choose to eat this? Basically because I couldn't remember having knowingly tried angler fish or truffles before. And truffles were a speciality of the house.

What was the outcome? Well, it was actually rather good. The truffle sauce and truffle shavings were delicious and really brought an earthy, meaty, flavour to the fish. The fish reminded me of scallops, which I like (although research online today reveals that the received wisdom is that it most resembles lobster).

I guess I was a little disappointed that it didn't arrive on a platter with its little fleshy fishing rod intact, perhaps deep fried, with a sparkler to resemble the light. But that would have been asking too much. Anyway, the spectacular chocolate mousse I had for dessert soon put paid to any lingering regrets.

More about angler fish...
More about truffles...

*Indeed, only yesterday my daughter attempted to digest mouthfuls of a foam ball.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Carnival reflections

I had been planning that this blog entry would be all about my wild long weekend of carnival revelry, culminating in a description of my attendance at the big Rosenmontag carnival parade yesterday. (Rosenmontag is a public holiday. The term means 'running Monday'.)

Sadly I had a stonker of a migraine yesterday and had to stay in bed. Instead of the beat of drums and tambourines, the only percussion I encountered was as my grey matter pounded against the white.

It was such a shame. I had been looking forward to dressing up the whole family, as is the tradition for carnival attendees. We were to be a cat (moi), a devil (April) and a convict (my dear husband). Sadly, I think it will be some time before I can persuade Simon to try on his newly purchased convict's stripy attire.

April and I did manage to make it to a kiddie's carnival party on Friday though. It was cute seeing all the little ones dressed up. My prize for the most inventive costume goes to the mum of the baby boy dressed as Axl Rose, wearing an AB/CD (geddit?) rocker's T-shirt and bandana. Apart from the enjoyment of seeing all these helpless little ones in fancy dress there was another highlight for me: someone had brought along chocolate iced buns. Hmm, methinks I might try to attend more children's parties...

April wore her little devil outfit. I learnt that 'little devil' in German is 'teufelchen' as one of my friends was called this on Thursday night by a native in a chat up attempt. It's amazing how you pick up the lingo isn't it? (Still, the native didn't get to pick up my friend.)

Friday, 1 February 2008

Everyday crime fighters

Carnival kicked off yesterday at 11.11am. It is a week long festival of street parties, processions and balls and ends on Ash Wednesday. The first day of carnival is a very rowdy affair, with all day drinking and pretty much compulsory costume wearing.

I went out with friends Sarah, Nina and Ros - we were two devils, a gypsy and an angel. We saw some great costumes spanning all genres from historical, to fictional characters, to members of the animal kingdom. While out I saw these chaps, who I think deserve a mention.

SherlockSherlock Holmes queues patiently outside a bar. Or perhaps he is doing a stakeout on a dastardly villain...

If you look closely you'll notice how he seems to have abandoned the traditional pipe for a sneaky draw on a cigarette.

ZorroZorro prepares to fight injustice on the late night tram.

Or, perhaps he is hoping to sneak up on one of those short-skirted young ladies and envelop her under his cape?