On [self-inflicted] frustration

(Another one from the drafts folder)

“I hate satnags

And traffic

And running out of fuel

And hotel receptionists who have to show you how the lights work in your room

And not finding anywhere to park

And people who don’t put signs up to let you know where you’re going

And the lack of house numbers

And people who hold fish meetings in poodle club houses”


That’s what I wrote to my brother the other evening. Can you tell that I was stressed?

If I unravel the strings a bit, it’s obvious that I can’t honestly even blame any of the things on the list for my stress either. I am just really really bad at planning things. Or possibly passable at making plans and rubbish at carrying them out.


I wanted to listen to a talk about catfish.

It was being given by an expert/fanatic in Hamburg, at least 3 hours away from where I work. It was on a Thursday evening and I try not to drive when tired, meaning I needed to take holiday for the Friday, and pay for accommodation for Thursday night. I don’t have holiday or money to spare, and I should probably have stayed at home because my brother was coming to visit and I wanted/needed to prepare for him.

I decided to go anyway.

It was a spontaneous decision, one I didn’t really have time for, but one I made and stuck to regardless. My pre-birthday present to myself. There’s time to be vernünftig when I’m old, and luckily my brother isn’t fussy about things like unwashed floors or unmade beds.


On the evening before the day of the talk I came home late from work (still catching up with my hours of school-induced undertime) and tried to sort my house out. I could have started that earlier in the week but I didn’t, I made a mess in my kitchen and on the balcony instead. I could have ignored the hours I need to catch up with and gone home earlier but I didn’t. I could have tidied more quickly and distracted myself with the shrimp babies less often. But I didn’t and did, respectively.

By the time the place was starting to look presentable it was midnight and I was tired. I went directly to bed instead of going via the shower.

I didn’t shower the next morning either, because it was almost freezing outside and I’d had to park million miles away so the workmen could build a new road outside my house, and also because I’d woken up later than I’d planned.

I didn’t fill my water bottles for work because I hadn’t left time for the filter to do its thing and my tap water tastes horrible. I didn’t stop to buy anything to drink on the way because I was already late. Despite not showering and not filling my bottles.

Once at work, nothing I tried making turned out the way I wanted it to**. My hand cramped which only made things worse. The kind of cramp which makes you cry. I was aiming to set off at 2pm, but I didn’t want to leave before I’d had some kind of success, even if only minimal, so I didn’t get on the road until nearly 3. Google had said it would take 3 hours so I was still within my time budget. (Or so I thought.)

It took me over an hour to get across Berlin in nose-to-tail traffic. If I’d known, I could have taken a different route, but I didn’t know. I checked Google for distance and driving time a couple of days in advance, but I didn’t check for congestion before setting out and my satnav doesn’t communicate with traffic information.

The rest of the journey was long but uninteresting, except for having to stop for fuel on the way. The bloke at the petrol station laughed at me because I forgot to look at the number of my pump before I went in to pay… 🙄


When I reached the last junction I had to choose where to go first – hall or hotel.

I’d chosen a hotel approximately 10-15 minutes drive away from the hall the talk was going to be held in. It was already gone half past 6 and the talk was due to start at 7pm, with an open-ended question and answer session afterwards. I figured I was unlikely to make it to the talk on time if I checked into the hotel first, but just as unlikely to make it back to the hotel before the reception closed at 10pm. Sleeping in my car sounded like a bad idea in November. I looked at the clock, sighed and headed towards the hotel instead of straight to the hall.


I almost drove straight past the hotel but saw the sign at the last moment and parked on the pavement a couple of hundred metres away. It took me a while to find the front door (curiously situated at the  back of the house) and even longer to check in.

The receptionist was in the middle of printing and folding a million pages of menus. She couldn’t check me in until she could print my paperwork, and she couldn’t do that until the printer had finished printing the menus….

At some point I was shown the key. I couldn’t have it, though, until I’d been shown the box to put it in upon departure, as well as the carpark, the rest of the grounds, the breakfast hall, the toilets and my room, including a demonstration of each light and every cupboard.

Since when is that normal?!

To give the receptionist her due, she was very lovely (and possibly very bored), and on any other day, I would have probably been more grateful for the tour. In this case I could only just about remember to say thank you when she was finished.


I should probably have left as soon as she finished telling me about how to close the bedroom door properly, but someone had unfortunately put a mirror up in my room and I hadn’t managed to avoid it.

I looked a complete mess. It appeared that a shower was more a necessity than a luxury… (Especially the part where I had to be content with using the hotel’s shower gel instead of shampoo because I’d left my washkit in my car).


I was tired and I hadn’t eaten and I’d already missed the beginning of the talk when I finally set off towards the hall, but I had at least found a stray bottle of water in the boot of my car (from a previous shopping trip) so I was less at risk of dehydration thirsty than when I’d set off.


The 10 minute trip from the hotel to the hall took me over half an hour and involved swearing in multiple languages. My satnag and I rarely agree on timing and only very occasionally on directions. After driving backwards and forwards and round in circles I parked at random and got out of the car. My phone would have to take over.

It was dark and raining as I walked back the way I’d come. I was already nearly ¾ of an hour late for a talk I’d driven 300km to hear. I was not a particularly happy bunny and the weather wasn’t helping to cheer me up.

A few minutes later I was amazed to find a miniature carpark, accessible only via an unmarked turning, hidden from the road by a thick hedge. Opposite the carpark was a narrow wooden gate, mostly hidden behind some trees.

Further inspection revealed a small sign which informed me that the field behind the gate belonged to the poodle taming club. At the far end of the field was a low hut with row of yellow window-shaped lights.

The poodle tamers’ clubhouse address at the bottom of the sign was the same as the address of the fishlovers association I was looking for. I was expecting lots of catfish enthusiasts but no one had told me about the poodle tamers.

I opened the gate and made my way across the wet field in the half-dark, typing that message to my brother and hoping there weren’t any wild poodles waiting for intruders.


The talk was fantastic (at least the parts I was there for), the speaker unexpectedly laid back. The talk and Q&A session were followed by a book signing. He had brought a box of back issues of his magazines*** to hand out and a box of his books for sale. I, obviously (is it obvious to everyone else?), hadn’t got enough money with me to buy a book, but I did pick up a magazine as they came round.

I knew nobody and would have usually slunk away at this point, but I was accosted as soon as the projector was turned off and the lights came on. Who are you, where do you come from, why are you here, how did you hear about it, where do you come from, did you really drive all the way here from Berlin?! what kind of fish do you have..? Do you know the speaker, do you want to get his signature…etcetcetc… Some of the usuals in the aquarium club knew him already, presumably from previous speeches, and insisted on introducing us.

I still, despite working with famous artists and professors, expect experts to be serious, too aloof to talk to normal mortals, but the speaker, like the artists and professors, was just as human as the rest of us as he sat and chatted about fish and travelling and struggling to find time to write books between all his other commitments.

He pushed the pile of magazines in my direction and gave me the names of other people to get in touch with, people who know about the same sort of fish, people who are part of a small group of experts, people with many years of fish-breeding experience, people who would be interested in passing on their knowledge if I wanted to hear it.


I left the poodle club starving but in a much better mood than before…

…until I found out that none of the restaurants in a 10km radius were willing to serve me food after 10pm.


Good thing garages sell breadbuns late at night.


All things considered, it was a very good evening.

Can’t shake the feeling that I probably need to work on my organisation skills tho.

* Wet hair in cold weather is probably ok if you’re healthy. I used to not care what the weather was doing. Thing is, I’ve been running on empty for a long time and my immune system is more or less screwed.. I’ve been fighting a cold since early September and had far more eczema than usual.

** Not a new phenomenon…

*** He’s not only a discoverer and breeder of various fish, he also writes books and catalogues and is the editor of a well-read magazine.

On sleeping in 7 beds in 7 days

Lying here in bed, I realised that I’m in the same bed as I was in yesterday. That hasn’t happened for a while. A whole week in fact.

I left my house on Friday morning last week and slept in a different bed each night until I got back home on Thursday evening. I love that my friends and my family have room for me. I love that I have the means to travel. I love that it’s all possible.

And yet..

..I am glad to stop spinning for a bit.. even if it’s just a couple of days before I set off again.

On driving several tonnes of memories across Germany with no brakes

Wrote most some of this during the breaks in Friday’s adventure. I originally wanted to write about each step of the journey as it happened, but sometimes it was more important to participate than observe so I missed some lots of bits out, or wrote fragments instead of sentences. I thought about posting as was, but I had some time to kill on the flight and wanted to make it more readable so I’ve chopped and changed and added as necessary..


13:00 – motorway services carpark (where I bought my coffee)

S and I arranged to meet at the rental office at 8. I missed the train I wanted to catch so by the time I arrived she’d already sorted everything out and was raring to go – the helpers were booked to arrive soon and she had a couple of things she wanted to sort out before they turned up. All I had to do was hand over my driving licence (they gave it back afterwards)) and pick up the keys and then we could go.


The van is huuuuuge!! And has the turning circle of a block of flats. (Or at least a middle sized house). The place we borrowed it from has a lamppost directly next to the exit. Guess who dented the van before they’d even driven 200m….

Ho hum. We luckily have a good insurance policy.

Then we got a tiny bit lost on the way to S’s house so the helpers had to wait for us and S had to work round them.

They worked quickly and we were on the road half an hour earlier than we’d planned despite everything.

And now we’re on the first loobreak.

It’s windy and there are roadworks and it’s looking like rain, but there are no traffic jams (yet).



15:00 ish – Supermarket logistics centre carpark.

We’ve stopped because we have no brakes. Or at least dodgy brakes. Or not enough brakes. Or something.

We were driving along a motorway, minding our own business when the dashboard suddenly lit up like a rather monotonous Christmas tree (or a traffic light party).

I had no idea what some of the symbols and abbreviations meant, but some of them were red and I know red lights mean you should stop. The display screen told us to consult the handbook, but I didn’t fancy reading while driving and I’m against my dashboard telling me anything while I’m on the motorway, so we took the next exit and stopped in a logistics centre carpark.

According to the display and the guide to dashboard lights, we have no ESP, no ABS, no ASR, no hill holder…. Nuffink.

We consulted the handbook.
The handbook was almost entirely useless – it basically told us that a) it was something to do with the brakes and b) we should consult someone knowledgeable.

That we had no brakes can’t be quite true because I did bring it to a halt.

S is on the phone to the rental company to find out what to do next.

I used the time to smuggle my way into the logistics centre to use their loo. (If you don’t close the main door properly behind you, there will be someone who uses opportunity to follow you into the building..).

Life is never boring…

(Also, it didn’t just rain after we set off again earlier, it feels more accurate to say the sky fell down).


16:15 ish – still in the logistics carpark

A repair man is apparently on his way.. he is supposed to be here by 5… We originally wanted to be at the new house by then. That was honestly unlikely to happen, but we could have probably made it for just after 6. No chance of that now.


16:50 – still not going anywhere

I wrote: “New loo – lorry driver shed – renovation and lots of dust”

This was good. I walked up to the gatemen at the edge of the lorry park and asked if I could use the loo. They said they didn’t have one and they couldn’t let me onto the grounds to get to the main building. I asked where I should go instead, and they pointed me in the general direction of a garage. When I asked how far away that was and said I was on foot because my car had broken down, they admitted that they did indeed have a working toilet but that it was very dirty due to the renovation work going on. I was welcome to use it if I didn’t mind the rubble.

It was very rubbley, but still a lot better than a lot of motorway loos 😉


19:00 ish – van repair workshop

The repair man arrived (at the carpark) at 17:something-late.. He’d got caught in a motorway closure and resulting traffic jams, and a journey that should have taken just under half an hour took him almost two.

He was friendly and helpful and thorough and unplugged things and tested things and checked things with a computer.

It turned out that something to do with the ABS/rear brakes was broken. I could either sign something to say that I was personally responsible for any accident that occurred on the rest of the journey, or we could get it repaired before continuing Essenwards. We were already so late that the unpacking helpers would be gone when we arrived, and I really didn’t want to be responsible for any more accidents, so we decided to get it repaired.

He couldn’t repair anything in the carpark in the dark, so we followed him back to the workshop.. slowly and carefully.

We now have a drinks machine with free cocoa/coffee/water and a couple of sofas to play with 🙂

I’m going to sleep for a bit while they work on the van.


Midnight – at S’s parents’ house.

We got in, alive and well at 23:15 ish.

The last entry was as I was trying to sleep at the workshop…

No such luck. Or more luck, depending on how you look at it. Just as I was getting close to sleeping, they came back and said we could go – everything was mended :).

We drove the last 270something km in approximately 4 hours (including refuelling and getting lost in a car park). That’s incredibly slow for German motorways, but I’m a wimp and it was windy and I didn’t want to overtake all the lorries. I’m not good at overtaking on a good day in my car. On a crazy day like today in a 20something foot van, with less than enough sleep, I was even more reluctant than usual.. It’s amazing how much wind you don’t notice in a car..

S’s parents waited up for us, and we had soup as a kind of midnight snack while we recounted the days events.


I think, on balance, we did really well, considering, even if we could theoretically have done better..

On flying like a puffin-billed-penguin-y-puss*

My sister is always adopting animals. This time she must have decided it was my turn. She left a small animal with my parents for me to collect and look after.

Unfortunately I don’t know quite what it is. I thought it was a baby puffin, my parents said it looked more like a penguin and my sister is adamant that it says it’s a cat…

Whatever it is, this was its first passenger flight. The trip is quite a long one, made longer by various delays, but it was very well behaved. 

I’ve documented the journey for the photo album ;).. If you have better captions, let me know in the comments

Always wear your feetbelt on the train

Dance if you make it through check-in undetected
Remember to bring chocolate if you think there’s any chance of delays
Get excited when you can finally see something happening
..but hide before they can see you
Too late to turn back now
“please attend to your own oxygen mask before helping your puffin..”
Isn’t flying exciting?!
Fast asleep..
..or not, as the case may be
“I’m bored! Are we nearly there yet?!”
Land in sight!
Finally reacquainted with the luggage 🙂 EasyPeasy!
Oops – must’ve missed the partial escape
Time for bed

* Like a duck-billed-platypus only different…

On sleeping in my car

Okay, so it was nothing like a Roxette song, but it was an adventure. There’s not much more freeing than packing your stuff into the back of your own car and driving into the sunset. And there’s not much more grown up than realising when you are really really tired and should stop to sleep instead of charging on towards a goal regardless of all danger..


Lorries, even sleeping lorries, are loud. Lorries full of animals are cruel at the best of times, but are especially cruel when they have to travel so far that there are overnight stops. Those animals are [understandably] even louder than the refrigerator lorries.

The rain, when it falls, is loud. The choice between fresh air and a wet car is difficult to make while half asleep.

The seats are only so long. I’m a fairly short person and my car is fairly big, but my feet spent a lot of the night trying to find something to rest on/against.

The sun comes up on its own terms. There are no curtains in a car. You can’t choose when to turn the lights on. You get what the weather fairy gives you.

There are many things which could be considered suboptimal.

But. None of them cancels out the sense of adventure and the feeling of being alive. In fact they add to it.

So would I do it again?

You bet!


On ice cream and no spoon

My younger self spent many (MANY) hours sitting on benches in various parks and town squares, eating icecream. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with friends, sometimes (and probably most often) with my siblings.

This was such a common occurrence, that we each kept an emergency spoon in our bags or wallets.

Yesterday I found myself alone in a new town, with a couple of hours to kill. It was incredibly warm, I had my luggage with me so I couldn’t do much easy sight seeing,  and to be honest, I really couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere or do anything. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing to spend time doing.

On the other hand, I hadn’t drunk anything since early in the morning, and dehydration isn’t fun. 

I walked from the train station to the nearest supermarket and looked at all the ice creams on offer. Then I remembered that I no longer carry my spoon with me.

It’s been years since I had opportunity to use it… That was extraordinarily upsetting. I don’t know how I let such an integral part of my identity slide so far without even realising it.

In the end, I bought a packet of mini-milks. They have wooden sticks and taste like walking home from school as a little kid.

That was an adequate substitute, but I intend to find my spoon when I get back, and put it back in its rightful place in my purse.


On hurting people without meaning to

I’ve just been jolted out of an uneasy sleep in an uncomfortable aircraft seat by a food trolley. The absent minded trolley pusher rammed the trolley into my knee. I can only imagine it wasn’t intentional, so I can’t really be cross, even if it a) hurt, and b) woke me up. 

It seems like a good day for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

DB bashed me with my suitcase as he lifted it out of the car. The guy behind me at security bashed me with his tray while trying to juggle with it, his paperwork, a phone and his bag. A lady bashed me with her bag when she turned round waiting for boarding. 

I don’t much appreciate being bashed, yet none of those bashes were on purpose. No one set out to hurt me, they just did, without realising until afterwards, or in the case of the lady, not at all. And they all apologised (except the lady).

I wonder how many more times people will bash me before I get to my brother’s house. I wonder how many times it’ll take before I actually get cross with the basher.

I wonder how much I hurt people by mistake, just by living, just by going about my day. I wonder how many people I hurt without even realising it. Not just by wielding my suitcase carelessly, but also with my words, my choices, my actions. I wonder how many of those people never say anything, how many wait until they’re really mad at the world in general to snap and say something, or yell something.

On therapy

The first session starts in 14 minutes.

I feel totally unprepared, but I hope it won’t matter.

I am also quite sweaty, which is worse than unprepared. The 18 degrees they promised us this morning when I put jeans on, have turned into at least 25, probably closer to 28, and the leisurely walk  I meant to have via the bank to the station, turned into a rush to get there before being late, and included locking my card because I couldn’t remember the pin number.

The reason I was rushing in the first place, is that I couldn’t work out how to get the printer to print my health and illness history onto a single page of A4 (or 2) as opposed to spread over 9.
Theoretically, I could have written it on paper, by hand. Or into word, where I can see the edges of the paper. Instead, I wanted to use excel. Theoretically, even that would have been a good idea, if properly executed. Which it wasn’t.

Instead, it was fussed over, in tremendous detail, until I realised I had to leave a couple of minutes ago, then rushed, without formatting or spellchecking, to get it at least printed, in whatever form possible. 

I am trying, by way of writing this out, to bring myself back out of panic mode, and into, ‘try and get a grip’ mode.

If not quite succeeding counts as preparation for therapy, then I guess I am prepared after all….
Wish me luck, or good questions, or whatever you feel is appropriate…

On the eve of a new year

Hello people 🙂 I hope all your Christmases were fantastic, and wish you a brilliant last night of 2016, whatever you choose to do with it.

I’ve just got back to Berlin and am already at the second ‘party’ of the evening so I’m going to put my phone away and be marginally sociable…

I’ll leave you with a picture of a tree we drove past this morning:

Isn’t it pretty?!

The whole world was white for most of the way across Germany

On a platform strewn with confetti hearts

20160610_201037.jpgI missed what happened, I just saw the aftermath – a million (more or less) shiny red hearts.

I don’t know why they were there, but it made an otherwise unmemorable platform a little bit more special.

Do people get engaged on platforms of busy stations?
Set off on their honeymoon?
Are some people met by confetti throwers when they get back from wherever they’ve been?

I have no idea, but I hope each of those hearts – and there were a lot – stands for a handful of special moments for whoever was involved.