Sunday, 30 March 2008

Could they cut it?

Yesterday I did a brave thing. I went to a German hairdresser's shop for the first time. I have lived in Germany for 16 months and managed to avoid the experience until now.

I had been getting by with trims from an American hairdresser I know here. Last month she broke the news that she has decided not to do hair anymore. There was nothing for it but to visit a native snipper.

Now, fortunately I have a very wised up German female friend who has a well maintained head of hair. So I asked where she had it done and that is where I went.

I was relieved when I walked into the salon because all the stylists had good hair. It was clearly not a place used to doing bright red rinses (a favourite barnet choice for the slightly older German lady) or mullets (a style that can still be spotted from time to time around these parts). I immediately felt more at ease.

The experience was all very familiar and yet slightly out of the ordinary. The process was the same: consultation, hair washing, cutting, drying, then straightening.

The language barrier was obviously the major difference for me. My stylist did not have much English and I did not have much German, so we had to use one of the other stylists as interpreter to discuss the finer points of snippage. I became slightly nervous that my requirements might be lost in translation. I held my breath when the stylist starting chopping.

Once the process was in full swing there was no possibility of small talk - I found it a bit unnerving to have someone in my personal space but for there to be no chit chat. When I am in England I always book in a haircut with a hairdresser I have used for about ten years. We've done a lot of gossiping in that time, so we have an easy familiarity.

Just one other unusual thing - to save money customers can opt to dry their own hair, using the hairdryers in the salon. This is something I have never seen in England. Now, the only time my hair is ever straight and smooth is when I visit the hairdresser so there is no way I would forego this joy for the sake of saving a few Euros. However, the Germans are known for being very careful with their money.

Anyway, I won't keep you in suspense any longer - the haircut was a success. My 'do' is really neat and shiny. I am still enjoying swishing my mane around today. It is a shame that over the last day it has absorbed lots of cooking smells, but at least it is glamourous if you don't get too close.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Easter snow

It has been snowing today. It's very pretty to observe. Yet, I cannot help thinking it is a little odd to look out on falling snow at the same time as tucking into chocolate Easter eggs.

snow on forsythiaI sent Simon out on to the balcony to take some photos in the freezing cold. There were three reasons it was better for him to go out than me:

1. He has a very fancy camera
2. He has much more photographic skill than me
3. Finally, isn't it better if someone else suffers for my art?

Here is a lovely photo he took of the forsythia plant, its flowers weighed down with snow crystals.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Living it up in town

What I do quite like about my life in Cologne is my proximity to where stuff happens. I live about 10 minutes walk away the centre of the city and there are plenty of bars and restaurants lining the way. Before Cologne I was always a suburban lass, so expeditions into the interesting zones were always carefully planned to coincide with train and bus timetables.

Simon and I do try to take advantage of our exciting location as much as possible. Sometimes we book a babysitter so we can enjoy an evening out. More often though, we just meet friends for weekend lunches or coffee and cake and take little baby with us (baby April really enjoys people watching).

On one such weekend rendezvous a friend suggested meeting in a gastro bar. I was very impressed with the bar on two counts: 1)It had four large chandeliers (one of which is pictured) made out of kitchen paraphernalia, thus making it feel grand yet cosy and domestic 2) It also produced one of the best club sandwiches I have had the pleasure to eat. I will be going again as German eating establishments do not often have club sandwiches on the menu!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Corsets and curtains in the Café

Last night I found myself face to face with Madonna’s iconic pointy bra corset. She was not in it. If she had been, I doubt whether I would have stared so boldly.

Let me explain.

Last night I went to the Hard Rock Café in Cologne with a group of friends. We sat upstairs, in an almost empty room. On the wall facing me was a glass case containing the corset. It was gold. It was laced. It was boned. It was engineered in such a way as to suggest that the wearer would have undergone some discomfort. The caption under the case explained that the corset was one of those that Madonna wore on stage for photographers prior to performances. One passer-by thought the item of such significance that he took a photo of it on his camera phone.

The only other person in the room with us last night was a lady running up a pair of curtains on a sewing machine. She was tucked away in a corner, in the gloom. While I might have expected to see some rock memorabilia at the Hard Rock Café, I certainly never expected to see a seamstress toiling in the dark in such a Dickensian manner.

Sunday, 2 March 2008


Like the English, Germans seem to enjoy the company of dogs. Unlike the English, they also enjoy the company of dogs in shops, restaurants, and other places you’d expect to be dogless if you were in the UK. This came to me as quite a surprise – not least because I nearly tripped over a little dachshund in the jewellery section of a department store during an early visit. I did a double take and checked to see if anyone else noticed this oddity, yet nobody else seemed surprised. After this had happened a few times I realised it must be normal – so I stopped pointing at them as much and began to tread more carefully.

I find it even more surprising that dogs are accepted in many restaurants. One evening I was in an Italian restaurant with a group of friends. I was happily tucking into my main course when I stopped, fork in air, as I saw a couple entering the premises with a wolf hound. I assumed they would be told to tie up the dog outside, but I was wrong. Instead, the waiter cheerfully greeted the couple and their dog and showed them to a table. I began imagine some farcical scenarios in my head involving said dog:
• Dog chases waiter carrying a bowl of meaty Bolognese sauce
• Dog knocks down patrons in enthusiastic displays of affection
• Dog jumps over tables to locate the source of the scent of a rabbit risotto
What actually happened? The wolf hound just curled up on the floor and we hardly heard a peep out of him. Now, in the face of all that temptation, that's what I call a well-trained hound!