The very best way to round off a day which involved learning, aged 30, that not only does potato soup go mouldy over the course of 18 hours, but also that you’re apparently incapable of closing the curtains correctly, has to include tipping 4 litres of said mouldy soup into the toilet and momentarily blocking it.
It’s a long one, folks – I hope you have good biscuits..
“Ah! You’re here to pick P up. Come in!”
I have no idea whether the receptionist phoned ahead or whether it was pure good timing that there wasn’t a queue and that the carer who met me at the gate knew who I was and why I was there, but it’s quite a walk from the reception to the RehaCentre and it was still cold (duh!) so I was happy. She ushered me into the surgery/meeting-room and joined me as soon as she’d fetched the paperwork.
Just as we’d both sat down and started unpeeling layers and spreading out papers, another carer rushed in and told us we had to leave because ‘those people’ were back, ‘the ones that complained last time’.
We bundled the papers back together, put our coats and gloves back on and headed back outside to the only other table – outside, against a wall, overlooking the main gate. Not a bad place to sit in summer, in winter it was a little bit nippy… But hey – it wasn’t going to take long, right? All I had to do was sign some bits of paper and I could take P home. Easy. Right?
We settled down on our mismatched wooden chairs, and began again.
It was a bit too windy for spreading papers out, so ‘my’ carer started by explaining the intricacies of the adoption process. Unfortunately she was whisked away before she got very far – she was needed elsewhere.
For the next hour or so both carers were involved in a long and presumably complicated process involving three cross people who may or may not have wanted to adopt a dog, but had been ‘made to wait’ (for at least a minute and a half while we’d vacated the meeting room, and for an unknown length of time on their last visit – I’m going to guess way less than ten minutes) and had no intention of doing anything remotely helpful – like listening or thinking.
Meanwhile, I sat outside, at my mostly windsheltered table, and watched the carers to take it in turns to rush backwards and forwards between the meeting room and their other duties; bringing dogs to various visitors, answering questions, returning dogs to their respective kennels, taking loads of laundry from A to B, fetching leads and harnesses and bowls and blankets, letting me know they’d be there for me soon. Amazing. Multitasking at its best.
(The home, or at least as much of it as I’ve seen, is well run overall, but probably understaffed. Especially when some people demand more attention than they’re due.)
– start waffling rant –
I don’t mind waiting. Especially if there’s a good reason for it. Even when it’s cold. I have a good coat and thick socks and my skiing gloves. I’m unlikely to actually freeze to death if I sit outside for an hour. I have a phone, I can read, write and take pictures. No problem. I probably wouldn’t be doing much else if I was on a train. I spend a lot of time on trains, waiting to get to new places, and although trains are generally warmer, the stations generally aren’t. Getting a dog is kind of like getting off a train at a new station. You got on the train with the intention of getting out at whichever station you chose, but you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to find when you get there.
– waffle over –
I do mind other people minding waiting. Especially if there’s a good reason for them having to.
Good reasons in both cases are things like the level of dedication the staff show. Not only to the dogs themselves but also to the people who come to look at / pat / collect them. Like recognising us (and probably every other potential owner) right away from the second time we went. Like knowing who we are, which dog we want to visit, what who’d said to whom and when. Fantastic. That’s hardly a reason to complain to the management.
– Rant over –
Adopting P was remarkably simple when it finally happened: listen to this, read that, sign here….
I was issued with a pallet of dog food, a bag of medicine and a list of instructions for both.
And a dog. Obviously. But she didn’t come with instructions.
It wouldn’t be Germany without doubled up paperwork. Once the carer and I had signed all the various papers, I had to take them back to the reception…
…where “those people” were arguing with the receptionist about the idiocy of the 5 day rule* and about having had to wait, again!, and about wanting to see the management. And not just the idiot they’d been fobbed off with last time…
Turns out, that was the top manager – so his boss didn’t exist regardless of how much they wanted to see him
HAH!! That told them.
They muttered and grumbled off to berate him again, finally freeing up the desk for me to smile, tell her what a great job they all do and hand over the forms to be copied. 🙂
P and I went for a walk before driving home. I wasn’t sure how she’d react to being in a strange vehicle, but I figured it would be better if she was tired first. Or at least not quite so bouncy – I’m pretty sure she can’t be worn out by a half an hour’s walk. If nothing else, it meant she didn’t pee in the van.
She’s too short to see out of the van’s windows, and I didn’t think to lift her onto the seat, so she spent most of the journey balancing on her back legs, with her front paws on the windowsill. I couldn’t see her in the mirror, but I heard the scratching and panting. I probably turned to make sure she was ok at every traffic light or give way sign all the way home. Braking in/on slush is ‘fun’ anyway, braking on slush when you’re trying to concentrate on not sending a brand new dog flying is a little bit daunting.
We both survived unscathed though :).
I wasn’t sure how much newness she could take in one go – people, car, house – but walking in unknown snow must be the same everywhere, so I took her for another walk in the snow when we arrived, before I even let her into the garden.
Then, we went home and lived happily ever after.
Or the beginning.
Or something like that.
* The way the adoption works, you have a 5 day trial run.
On the fifth day, you have to take the dog back to the home for a complete check up by a vet. They make sure you haven’t been mistreating it, and, assuming you haven’t, they hand you all the paperwork (proof of ownership, immunisation info, vet reports etc).
If they declare you unfit, or anything else goes wrong (you decide you really can’t cope with a dog / your landlady complains about the barking / whatever) you can leave dog at the home and get your money refunded. You can still take them back after the 5 days, but it’s more complicated.
Surprisingly, both I and the van arrived, undamaged, at the rescue centre. (We didn’t even get lost on the way). I found a decent sized parking space and headed for the reception desk.
Receptionist: “Good morning, what can I do for you?”
Me: “Hello! I’m here to collect P”
R <smiling>: I’m going to assume that P is a dog..?”
Me: “Yup. I have a Form, if that helps…”
In Germany (and maybe elsewhere) Forms (capital F) are like magic wands. Unfortunately, the magic they do best is producing new Forms..
This one was no different.
I filled in all the spaces, wrote on all the lines, ticked all the boxes and made sure to dot my ‘i’s and cross my ‘t’s. I even signed my name in the allocated space without practicing first* 😉
When I’d finished filling things in, I handed all the paperwork to the receptionist to type up or photocopy or staple together** and went to browse the animal accoutrements of which there were several racks.
I wanted to pick up a brush while I was there – even if they were [probably] more expensive than in a normal pet shop, the excess would hopefully help fund the home.
A few minutes later I was back at the desk, armed with a double sided brush and a comb with rotating teeth.
I don’t know very much about dogs, but I know this breed is not only very fluffy, they also have 3 layers of fur which moult independently…. Getting both was probably still overkill but P is a very fluffy dog and I am a very sneezy person, so I decided better safe than sorry.
In the meantime the receptionist was finished. I paid – the brush and comb were about half the price of the dog – and went to find a loo. I always need to before I do anything scary. I hadn’t been aware of being scared of picking her up, but bodies know best I suppose. Or I’d drunk too much that morning. Either way.
I headed towards the Reha Centre.
* presumably due to repeated passport applications
** whatever German receptionists do with paperwork
In the morning – a very dark, but also very white morning – Tuesday appeared.
I was going to pick up a dog, on my own, in the aftermath of the heaviest snow of the year.
Berlin is not known for its snow. It does snow, but not much and not often. As a result, people who drive in Berlin are generally not accustomed to driving in snow and tend to do strange things. I learned to drive in Berlin, and since then we’ve only had very mild winters so I have next to no experience of driving in snow at all.
DB phoned his parents and asked if he (=I) could borrow the van. It’s a 4 wheel drive and apparently better on snow than my car.
That has to be a good thing, right?
Right. The less sliding about the better.
On the other hand, I’ve hardly ever driven it. The first time I did, in a mission to help DB juggle several cars between various workplaces, workshops and houses, it was evening, and getting dark fast.
Halfway home the dashboard lights died, so I drove in unknowing darkness – unable to see how fast I was going, whether I was about to run out of fuel or even what time it was. Once I was out of a streetlit area, I realised I was out of headlights too. DB was way ahead of me, and my phone had helpfully run out of battery so I couldn’t pull over and phone anyone to say where I was. Not that I really knew where I was anyway. As a passenger I look out of the windows. I look at art on posters and electricity boxes, I look at peoples’ gardens and the animals in fields. I don’t look at signposts or road junctions, and certainly don’t memorise them. I decided I didn’t really fancy parking on a fairly well travelled road in the dark with no lights and no hard shoulder or layby, so I carried on going (I’m still not sure what’s more frightening – stopping with no lights or driving with no lights ;)).
I made it home, slowly.
The second time I drove the van, it was also dark. The difference was that this time I had lights. I also had 3 drunken males and a piles of bicycles to distribute across Berlin.
I made it home that night too, but not before I’d reversed into a signpost*.
DB’s dad brought the van round and DB went to work.
I finished putting away the last few things (amazing what you can oversee) and hung up a picture I’d rediscovered in the dog-proofing sort out.
Then, fully appreciating the pointlessness, I washed the floor. I wanted the inevitable first-day pictures (and hordes of dog lover visits) to take place without being embarrassed by the state of the house/floor. Also, it’s easier to prove find out how grubby a dog is when you start from clean.
(This is a good place to issue a slight disclaimer for the last post… quite a lot of the things I sorted were things I’ve been meaning to do for a while – sometimes I need a more pressing reason than just because…)
When everything was ready, I looked up the dog’s home’s address and had a more-or-less** leisurely breakfast.
There I was, breakfasted and with a van and a clean house and a newly programmed SatNag.
Off I set.
* please note – when delivering drunken people to their homes, DO NOT believe them when they tell you there is room to turn a van round in front of their house. Such foolish belief could lead to reversing down a steep sloping drive and back onto the road…..or into a signpost…
I got my results today. They came in the post, in an innocuous white envelope.
I’d almost given up on them ever arriving. It’s been over a month since the exams. A long kind of month. A month with christmas and travel and parties and illness. I have no idea how I got through the long summers waiting for GCSE, AS or A level results to come out. That took 3 months.
The news is that I passed.
All three of the exams.
I scraped 2 passes, one of them 0.75 % over the pass mark, one 3%, and just about struggled through the third with a grand total of 68%.
I was peeved last time round, when I ‘only’ got around 75% average. This time, I have about 57%.
57 is a pass. I could be happy.
But I’m not.
I wanted to do well, really well, so I could cancel out the less-than-perfect grades I got in summer.
I don’t think I’m stupid. I don’t want to be anyway. And I don’t like giving up. But I’m not sure how I’m going to make the next exams go well enough to drag these grades up to somewhere I feel comfortable celebrating.
I’m also a bit stuck on how to act now. I passed, which tends to encourage people to congratulate one, but I don’t feel happy to have passed. Probably because I know I didn’t put in as much effort as I could have done. I don’t know, even with the benefit of hindsight, exactly what I should have done differently, given my time constraints and the ‘extracurricular activities’ I engage in, but I am sure it must be possible. I suppose I could have read more during my commute, re-read my notes and the textbooks before each new lecture.. not bought new fish, or worked on the book.
I am trying to tell myself that I did ok, considering. But I don’t believe myself. I don’t believe anyone else if they say it either.
I don’t deal well with failure, even if it’s only failure in my head. I had dreams of being good at what I do, and being brought back to the real world hurts. It shouldn’t. But it does.
I sat through almost 200 hours of lessons, gave up lots of lie-ins and otherwise-free-evenings, took a week’s holiday to sit in school and used another 10 days of what should have been a holiday to revise on the beach, and it still isn’t ‘good enough’.
Good enough for whom or for what isn’t clear. Even to me.
I don’t know who’s keeping score. I’m not aware of anyone frowning down at me. I’m paying for the course myself, so it’s not as if I’m letting a sponsor down.
And yet… *sighs*
I’ve been told nobody cares about grades. Problem is, I do. Even though I know they’re just numbers, just hoops other people hold up for you to jump through. Despite all the head-y knowledge-y thoughts that none of it really matters, I am disappointed.
I could have done better. I should have done better.
“Could do better” is something lots of people quote from old school reports. I didn’t often get comments like that. I did well. I was ‘conscientious’ and ‘diligent’. I passed exams, I functioned and I achieved. I wasn’t always the best (academically), but I was occasionally, and when I wasn’t, I wasn’t far behind.
I don’t know how to deal with not being good. I don’t even know how to function when I ‘fail’. Not that these results are even real fails. At least when I failed the practical part of my Meister exam I could resit and pass properly the second time round. Scraping through, when it didn’t feel like it should be such a struggle is just frustrating.
In theory I should stand up, brush myself off, tell myself it’s experience, and get my head down for the next round. Instead, I’m wallowing, writing this when I should be sleeping, defeating myself before I even begin. Tomorrow I will be unable to fully concentrate on whatever new content we get presented with and be too tired to review it when I get home.
I need to get a new mindset if I’m to stand any chance of not going crazy between now and September.
Anyone got any ideas where they’re sold? Not that I have any money to buy one. Anyone got any ideas where they’re giving them away?