Friday, 30 May 2008

Day as black as night

What an unusual week it has been for weather in these parts. In the last week an area of high pressure, which meteorologists are calling 'Otto', has caused it to be oppressively hot and humid.

black dayThings came to a head yesterday morning in bizarre fashion: the sky turned black for about half an hour before a storm. Simon took some photos of what it was like outside his office at 10.30 am, one of which you can see here. All the birds stopped singing and someone had to switch on the external lights. Simon rang me because he'd never seen anything as strange before and wanted to check if I was experiencing the same phenomenon. At our flat, things didn't get quite so dark, but it was still eerily dusky.

This momentary blackness was preceded by a dust storm which left many cars covered in a layer of dark yellow Saharan sand.

Apparently there has been other strange weather in Germany this week. There was a storm in northern Hesse on Wednesday which brought so much hail it had to be cleared by snowploughs. Areas in the south west have suffered mudslides due to heavy rain. In Krefeld, tennis ball sized hail stones smashed car windscreens and windows.

It is horribly hot again here today. I am hoping for some cooling rain - but I also don't want my wishes to bring showers of monsoon proportions. After the weather we have been having, I wouldn't rule out a monsoon!

Monday, 26 May 2008

Treats to eat

I have just been back to England for a week to catch up with family and friends. But also, I will sneakily admit, I had another item on my agenda - to indulge my cravings for some good old English grub.

Isn't it strange that one never misses really healthy foods? The things I had been missing included proper fish and chips from a fish and chip shop, my mum's cheese and potato pie (it contains cheese and potato!), English sausages and the best of all - a roast chicken dinner.

I was lucky enough to find opportunities to satisfy all of these indulgences. Well, as I am now pregnant with baby number two, I can use the 'eating for two' excuse...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

On fire

graffitti wallAt the start of the year I joined a group of female writers here in Cologne. We meet twice a month to spur each other on with our creative endeavours and to provide constructive criticism. It's been fantastic as it has prompted me to write some short pieces, having merely talked about doing so for several years.

graffiti wallWe meet in a very inspiring space - an old fire station which has been converted into a lively centre for the arts and community groups. The fire station dates back to the 1890s, but thanks to local graffiti artists it has a very modern feel: they have been given the opportunity to make their mark on several of the walls. You can see a couple of examples here.

I feel that with the help of the writing group, I am also now making my mark, albeit on the page rather than the wall. Simon always said that he thought moving here would help us to be more creative. I hate to admit it, but he was right.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

May Day love tokens

ribbons on twig
Last Thursday afternoon (30th April) I was amused to see a man dragging a wispy looking tree branch, which was taller than he was, along the pavement. It was covered in brightly coloured streamers made of crepe paper. I was more than a little puzzled. As I proceeded on my way home I spotted more people engaged in similar pursuits, many of them cyclists, balancing twigs and branches on their handle bars.

The next day, May Day, was another of Germany's wonderfully frequently occurring public holidays so I went for a little walk. I couldn't help noticing that many buildings were now adorned with these colourful boughs.

My curiosity was roused and so I did a little online research to find out what it all meant. Apparently it is a May Day custom. The tradition states that the bedecked boughs should be delivered by a male admirer to the house of his love interest on the eve of 30th April. On leap years, females have to take responsibility for delivery of the trees. As this is a leap year I guess I should have got one of these lovely gifts for Simon. Oh well. Until 2012 then...