On beneficial baths

Mostly written last night.

This morning it was warm and sunny and I cycled to work in a T-shirt and skirt. Yesterday and most of last week that was no problem. Today however…

When I looked out of the window at 5 this evening it was raining. The weather forecast I should ideally have looked at earlier said it wasn’t due to stop raining until tomorrow. I didn’t fancy sleeping at work so I packed my bag and cycled home straight away – in the hope that it meant I only had to face it being cold, wet and windy instead of cold, wet, windy and dark.

By the time I’d finished packing my bag it was not only raining but chucking it down. I was soaked well before I reached home.

Look! A dry bit! 🙂

***

This post was going to be a rant about the weather. I started writing it in my head on the way home. Then this evening happened and I no longer feel like ranting. I am actually kind of thankful for the rain, in a roundabout fashion..

***

The first thing I did after getting home and taking my helmet off was put the kettle on. The second thing was start running a bath.

I love baths, especially long baths but I don’t know when I last had one. ¾ of an hour cycling in a downpour without a coat seemed to be the perfect excuse.

Isn’t that ridiculous? That I feel like I need an excuse to spend [excessive] time in the bath. It’s like I have some kind of voice in my head permanently telling me that I should be doing something, should be productive, should have something to show for all the oxygen I’ve been using. I’m not sure what I’m trying to prove, or to whom, but I am aware that the more I try to prove it, the more I actually prove how incapable I am of proving it.

Productivity is all well and good, but I can’t be productive all the time, especially when my batteries are flat.

Sometimes batteries need recharging.

Sometimes a long bath is the best way to do that.

***

Today two very luffly friends (who barely know each other and are therefore almost definitely acting independently of each other) wrote to me to find out how I’m getting on and scheduled a phone call for tonight and next week respectively.

I’ve been spinning on my own axis in my own world for a while. Monday, for example, was one of those days where you I wonder what, if anything, you’re I’m capable of doing well and why you I even bother trying to deal with all the chaos when all you’re I’m doing is taking up space and messing up other people’s otherwise orderly lives. Reaching out (in person or by phone) and talking to people who love me was well overdue and I am so grateful for these people who seemingly instinctively know this and help me with it.

***

F and I had made our telephone plan before it started raining so I decided to combine the plans and phone her while soaking in the bath instead of while sweeping the floor and putting washing on.

Her phone didn’t work directly so I read my email while I was waiting for her to sort it out. I still get Flylady mails (remember her?) which I don’t often open but which I read today. I even poked the link and arrived at her podcast/vlog about how she makes her bed. Couldn’t bring myself to watch all the way to the end, there’s only so much bedmaking I can cope with, but since I was on YouTube anyway I jumped about through the recommendations until I came to a TEDx talk by a lady called Tracy McMillan.

BAM!!!

That is one cool lady.

I’d never read her articles or books or watched her TV shows. Never even heard of her before. Might be a tiny bit obsessed now though ;p.

As soon as her talk was over I googled her and found an interview between her and Lewis Howes (F’s phone didn’t properly recover so we spoke for a few minutes and agreed to postpone the call to tomorrow).

Here’s the link:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eWwRl_CNLR8

I think that’s the first YouTube link I’ve ever posted here. I am so awestruck by this woman’s positivity in the face of everything that she’s lived through, I think you should all go and watch the interview. Or the TED talk. Or possibly all the videos, except I haven’t seen them all and can’t directly recommend them.

She mostly talks about loving oneself. Flylady is always talking about flying. For all of you who don’t know her and weren’t around when I signed up for her emails, FLY is an acronym for finally loving yourself… I find the full-circle-ness fascinating.

***

So.

I was planning to do a million things this evening. I wanted to get my tax return finished and tidy the sitting room and do the washing up and put some unwanted things up for sale online. I wanted to find some photos to print and go through my computer and find the documents I need to work on over the next few days. I wanted to achieve so many things. In the end I didn’t do any of those things (although I did get a load of washing done, change my bedsheets and cook and eat dinner), but I think spending the time with a cup of hot ribena and a bath and Tracy McMillan’s voice turned out to be the best thing to do with the evening.

I wouldn’t have done that if it hadn’t been for having to cycle in the rain.

For that I am thankful. That’s why this was going to be a rant, but isn’t.

On naked v. knackered

For various reasons I am down to one pair of trousers which fits.

I took said pair of trousers off and left them on the bathroom floor while I had a shower. It was already late and I was already sleepy, but sometimes needs must. 

I got out of the shower, looking forward to going to bed and being horizontal. I leaned across the washing rack to open the window to let the steam out…and stepped backwards into a puddle.

That’s odd I thought.. but whatever. I don’t have a shower curtain and sometimes the water runs down my arms and off my elbows onto the floor while I’m washing my hair.

Then I wrapped myself in a towel and picked my clothes up… and dropped them again. They were sopping wet. And smelly.

It seems a stinky puddle of drain water had come back up through the hole in the floor and soaked everything. Eww.

***

The trousers went into the washing machine and I sat and waited for the peep peep peep to tell me I could hang them up and finally go to bed…

***

Radiator’s on, hopefully they’ll be dry by tomorrow. If not, I’ll have to find something else to wear… and I’m not sure I have anything that can cope with winter temperatures…

Argh.

On timing

Life could be so frigging easy!

And yet it isn’t.

Yesterday I received notification that I passed the project part of my last exam, and am invited to defend it on the 29th.

That means sorting out a presentation. It’s almost 2 weeks away. No problem.

Except.

I’m away for a long weekend at a glassblowing convention starting from Thursday morning. And I had 2 boxes of aquarium plants waiting to be planted. And I promised the secretary I’d translate 4 pages of text for her.

So. Yesterday I planted the plants. All the plants. All evening.

This morning, my alternater belt jumped off its wheels.

Yeehaah.

Or something.

This evening I’m going to work on the translation.

On not talking about Christmas

It’s the 25th of November.

That makes it exactly a month until Christmas.

I am ignoring that, and all other Christmas related things.

Between now and then, I have:

4 exams to revise for

a book to finish compiling and find pictures for and format and send off in time for printing

3 aquariums to look after, including water changes, getting rid of the duckweed and reinstalling a pump/filter

a 10 day holiday which DB wants to cancel because I’m planning on revising through it and he thinks staying here and working is more efficient…

I think I might not acknowledge that Christmas is even a thing until the 23rd when I will already be on the way home, and passed caring too much.

On winning the long way round

I had an idea at the beginning of November.

People thought it was good but the people in charge thought we should put it on the back burner for later.

For a couple of days it was prodded and stirred. Then it was put aside, to rest and wait for better weather.

At some point in between then and now it was cancelled altogether.

Turns out all it takes is a couple of phone calls and a riot in a forum for people to change their minds.

My idea is back on the boil 🙂 – and I’ve got more cooks than I expected 🙂 🙂 :).

On getting unangry

Getting angry is easy.

Getting unangry isn’t. At least, I don’t think it is. 

Yesterday was an angry day. (And I also didn’t post, so this is a catch up).

I asked three people what they do to get rid of their own anger and all three of them said they listen to loud music. One added that if it doesn’t work, they listen to more music (and/or more loudly). Additionally, one suggested screaming and one admitted to driving very fast.

I tend to want to hit things. I don’t actually hit them – I need my hands uninjured – but the wanting is still there. I also tend to cry. The sort that is uncontrolled and hot and loud and results in puffy eyes and an entire binload of used tissues.

Yesterday I went for music instead. It’s not the first time I’ve listened to music when angry, but it was probably the first time I have done so purposefully, with getting rid of my anger the only motivation.

It helped. I probably need a couple more doses 😉 but I am, a day/night and several hours of loud music later, down to a level of anger that isn’t, probably, going to involve injury to myself, anyone or anything else.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll find something creative to do with all this imbalanced energy soon.

In the meantime I will prescribe myself another dose of the Dixie Chicks’ “not ready to make nice (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IHH8bfPhusM) at full computer-speaker-volume in the workshop.

Luckily my colleague is on holiday 🙂 🙂 🙂

On learning to use libraries – part 1

One of the guys at school on Tuesday said they’d never been in a library before. (!!) Ever. Not as a little kid. Not in school. Not during his apprenticeship or Meister training. Not accompanying someone else. Never.

I can’t imagine a life without libraries, but I know DB doesn’t see the the benefit of them and I hadn’t been to a library for a couple of years (= until recently) either – since moving here. On a potentially related note, I haven’t been aware of as many bad spellers or semi-illiterate/dyslexic people en masse anywhere else I’ve lived.

Having said all that, I have to admit a lot of ignorance about libraries in Berlin…

The rest of this post was mostly written on the train while I was supposed to be reading reliable sources to use in my essay. I added to it gradually over the following weeks, and then pushed it to the back of my mind for a while. I’m dragging it out again because I need NaBloPoMo content and don’t have much time to write completely new posts.

***

I am (back in September) trying to write an essay. According to the lecturer, it is expected that these essays are not only of highest quality but are substantially grounded in facts, figures and quotes from clever people. We are expected(/=required) to use libraries and ‘proper’ sources, instead of relying on ‘people-on-the-internet’ to tell us the basics in easy to read articles.

A couple of weeks (= now months) ago, I would have sworn I knew how to use a library.

Now, I’m not so sure…

***

It started when I could barely find my way into the first library I tried to use since moving to Berlin. (I still can’t believe it took me almost 3 years). I’m not at all used to libraries being upstairs, above residential flats. After browsing the sale-table and waiting for the librarian to finish talking to the people before me in the queue, it turned out I couldn’t get a library card without not only proof of identity (which I had on me), but also proof of registering to live where you live (which I didn’t).

I went home with an application form and a couple of books I bought in the sale.

***

The second, steeper, learning curve presented itself in the second library – one on the way home from one of the places I work, in a building that would be better suited, from the outside, to a museum. This time I was better armed with all the paperwork I could think of.

I wasn’t armed with the knowledge that libraries sometimes have unattended back doors. I stood at the desk for the best part of 10 minutes before deciding to investigate. Three people-empty rooms later, I found a couple of incredibly helpful library-ladies.

I was issued a library card and a password and a card number and henceforth expected to scan my books in and out by myself. I don’t remember ever having to do that before. They do have a very cool machine to do it with though. It looks like the kind of scales you sometimes get in supermarkets – the kind with a stainless steel plate and a touch screen – but it must have some kind of scanning device hidden away somewhere because it knows what the books are as soon as they land on the plate (and displays their titles, authors and publishers on the screen). Also, the label it spits out when you poke the right buttons isn’t sticky… but having a list of the books is a very sensible idea!).

The library is part of a Berlin-wide collection* of libraries, but is very small, in a residential area, so books about obscure academic subjects don’t take up much room on the shelves. As the librarian said, “They’d be out of date before they’d been read twice”. She did find me a book about laws and a couple of ‘personal experiences’ books though.

***

The third curve was hideously steep, and I’m pretty sure I still haven’t reached the top yet. Probably not even half way.

There are at least 3 universities in Berlin. Each has a number of libraries. One company I work for has some kind of agreement that I can use them too. I say ‘can’, I probably mean ‘am allowed to’** – there was very little ability involved.

For starters, I had no idea the uni had so many individual libraries until I’d followed signs to one and been told I was in the wrong place for the kind of books I was trying to find. The second one I came to was appararently also wrong, and the third one was only approximately right because it was “cental” and had a bit of everything in.

I wandered round the foyer of a deserted-looking university building for a while, looking for the library. I would probably still be there if the man in the sentry box hadn’t taken pity on me and pointed me in the direction of an even more deserted-looking staircase, mostly hidden behind a dividing wall.

Luckily the sign on the door said Library, because the first thing that struck me when I finally arrived, was the severe lack of books. There were tables and fancy reading lights and sofa-chairs and computers and a help-desk, but no books. I decided to act even more helpless than I felt and plead innocence to the librarian-students behind the desk.

Trying to get a library card was a joke, although not nearly as funny as trying to take books out turned out to be. There are boxes to tick if you are a student or a professor or probably a travelling monkey, but not if you are me. I was stumped and the librarian was stumped and after a lot of discussion and a phonecall, it was agreed that I would be considered a student because that was easiest way to convince the computer to give me a library card number that wouldn’t give me the rights to all the forbidden books.

In the middle of all this, I phoned DB to tell him I might be some time and to eat without me. That was good, because I have never spent so long achieving so little in a library***.

I grew up with the Dewey system. For anyone who didn’t, it’s a system for arranging books by subject. Each subject is allocated a number from 0-9, with each specialisation (i.e. nature -> animals -> mammals -> dogs -> dog training) getting an additional digit. It is usefull and used, in varying degrees of complexity, by practically every library I’ve ever used, EXCEPT FOR THIS ONE! This one has decided, for whatever reason, to sort its books by date-of-purchase.

The only way to find (=look for) anything is to use the search function on the library computers. Once you find something, or in my case approximately 3000 somethings, you have to go through the list, clicking on individual entries to open the drop-down info box, trying to figure out which you want to borrow. This decision can be based on the title, occasionally a brief description or a chapter list and the author, although since I don’t know anyone famous for writing about unemployment the author was unimportant. Once you’ve decided it might possibly be interesting enough to look at, you have to click through to get the 12-digit-number and write it out on one of the many stacks of precut scraps of paper littering the tables.

Armed with a list of long numbers, you can ask the librarian for permission to go into the book, get sent back to the locker room to lock your bag away, go back to the desk and be shown to a corridor leading to a long, narrow room jam-packed with bookshelves – far closer together than in any ‘normal’ library. So close that two people couldn’t stand back to back and look at the books. Anyway. The shelves are arranged by year. Helpfully, the years are written in HUUGE lettering on the floor. The last couple of decades (from 2000, with space for the next few years ;)) were crammed into the top floor, all previous years were on lower floors.

The 12-digit-numbers are each stuck on the spine of the books, the way Dewey numbers often are, so at least that much was familiar. What wasn’t, was the way they started on the top shelf of the first bookcase and continued along the top of the next 4 bookcases before snaking back along the second shelf.

A long time later I emerged, fully phased, with a grand total of 3 books.

Sometimes, it seems, you shouldn’t judge a book by its contents page either.

 

To be continued…

* collective term for libraries, anyone?

** or ‘may’. However, despite the best efforts of multiple wanna-be-hilarious teachers, I have so far successfully refused to establish ‘may’ into my active vocabulary (except as a month), and I don’t plan on doing so any time soon…

*** not quite true 😉 I spent/d a lot of unproductive time in a lot of libraries. It just wasn’t as frustrating as in this one.

On leaving without saying goodbye

Ok, I get it.
You don’t like goodbyes. I don’t think I know anyone who particularly enjoys them.

You were – and are – well and truly finished here, you did your time, you ate the cake, you packed your coffee cup, you were ready to leave.

There’s no real sensible reason to hang about waiting for people to appear so you can finally say bye and get the hell out of here.

I get that.

It’s just… I would have liked the chance to say bye. And thank you. You’ve done so much for me that you probably don’t realise. It would’ve been good to tell you I appreciate it.

Not that there were no chances. I just thought there’d be more.

More chances. More time.

Time to go the loo quickly while you finished packing.

Time to dig your prezzie out of my bag while you carried your boxes to the steps.

Time to say bye before you drove off to seek more fortuitous fortunes.

(I hope you find them.)

Today was a good day. I hope you thought so too.

I learned a lot, as always, when I work with you.

I’m going to miss those days, the ones where the goal was work, and the way there was fun. Pretty much everything seems possible when it’s fun. Even the tough projects.

***

I suppose the take-away-message is ‘don’t assume’.

Don’t assume they’ll always be there.

Don’t assume they’ll wait for you to say bye.

Get in there first. Say what you want to say well before they’re due to leave, even if it seems weird to say bye hours in advance.

***

No, no one’s died. I was just a bit shaken (and a bit mad) that one of my favourite colleagues not only resigned, but also disappeared without saying goodbye. I wrote it directly after he left, but didn’t want to post it while it was so fresh. I never sent it. Maybe I should have done. Maybe I still will.

On German invitations

If you ever happen to find yourself invited to a German party, remember to turn up at least half an hour before the time on the invite.

It doesn’t matter what kind of event it is. Birthday, Barbecue, Leaving do.

In the last couple of weeks, I have been late to 3 different “occasions” despite actually being on time or early according to the invite.

Exhibit A – a prime example of what not to do (as demonstrated by yours truly):

A colleague’s leaving do: Invite said 12:30, I duely arrived at 12:29. Okay, I was cutting it fine, but I figured it was being held in a large hall so I could sneak in at the back if necessary and noone would notice. I though it was odd that there were people coming down the main stairs as I was going up, but I ignored them and carried on. When I reached the top, it became apparent that it was all over. The speeches were spoken, the colleague had been handed his certificates and bouquet and everyone was already halfway through their champagne.

Exhibit B – how to do it properly (German style):

A birthday party: DB wanted to give the birthday guest his present without everyone else looking, so he demanded we go early. I said he was crazy, but it was mostly his invite, so I tagged along on his terms. Leaving on his terms meant arriving over half an hour before the invite said we were invited. That turned out to be the opportune moment because we’d barely got through the “hellos and thankyous” before the next couple arrived – ca. 25 minutes early. The next guest weren’t far behind, and the last couple (who arrived one or 2 minutes “late”) practically had to fight for seats…

***

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

On musical confusion

Dear musicians, band managers and English-lyric writers,

Please (PLEASE) help me.
I have colleagues who listen to the radio. Even though there are several German bands, most of the music on the radio is currently sung in English. As the only “native-English-speaker” in the place, it’s my job to tell them what’s being sung.
I wouldn’t mind, really, if they accepted what I said, and went on with their work. Instead I find myself involved with in depth analysis and advanced linguistics.
Yesterday, for example, I was asked to explain and or translate half a dozen songs (including ‘I am the walrus’, ‘stay with me in the yellow’, and the band name ‘down2five’)
I could provide neither satisfying translations nor explanations. I don’t have a clue what the walrus is about, I don’t know how (or why) one stays in the yellow (or even what it is or what happens when one does), and I don’t know whether they used to maybe be 6 or if its actually supposed to be 25.

In future, it would be good if you could stick to band names, song titles and lyrics which make immediate sense, especially to non native English speakers. It would also be good if you only sang real words (God forbid the producers ever decide to recite The Jaberwocky.)

It can’t be all that hard, when you next write a song or name a band, you just need to think like a German. If you eradicate the need for the following questions you’re on the right track: What’s it about? What does it mean? What else could it mean? (Try using words which don’t rely on the context (words should only have one meaning each)) Why did they write such ridiculous songs? How does that work? Couldn’t they have said XYZ instead? How do you pronounce that? Why bother singing if no one can hear the words? (sing clearly, dammit!)…..

Thank you!

Jesska

On things I really need to stop getting angry about

  • Holes punched on the wrong side of the page and therefore filed upside down (standing on my head is bound to be good for my circulation and flexibility)
  • Papers filed in chronological order, except when they aren’t (looking for the 9th between the 6th and 7th will be second nature soon, and everyone needs more games of hide-and-seek in their lives).
  • Brand new rolls of bubble wrap, unpacked and stood upright to collect dirt on and in both ends (cleaning your packing materials before wrapping things is therapeutic – almost meditative).
  • Files saved under false names and dates (see hide-and-seek above).
  • Papers joined together with paperclips although they should be separate, or not joined when they should be (it’s like a huge free-for-all game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, with multiple donkeys).
  • Finding spelling mistakes in posters, AFTER they’ve been sent off to be hung up (we could offer a prize to anyone who finds them all)

***

Can you tell I’m working in the office today??

On how to travel by train without annoying everyone else

(A rant, please excuse me, I need to let off steam ;))

Travelling by train is quite easy, really, as is travelling by train without irritating your fellow passengers. At least I think it should be (although maybe I annoy everyone else without knowing it).

There are signs up everywhere telling people not to smoke, drink, eat, shout, put feet on the seats, listen to loud music and a few other things which aren’t particularly irritating.

These are a few as yet unwritten rules, which I would love to see implemented to save my teeth and my good temper:

(Please bear in mind that for the most part, I’m not aiming these rules at doddery old people, or people who are travelling by train for the first time in 35 years (for example) or people who can’t see, or are injured, or have some other legitimate reason for whatever they’re doing. I’m not even really talking to/about people travelling during the day when everything’s empty, they can probably do what they like without anyone caring. I’m talking to/about capable people using trains during morning or evening rush hour.)

  • if you are walking along a platform or across the flow of foot traffic in the station or in front of a lift or up/downstairs, DO NOT STOP WALKING (unless you know no one’s behind you and that’s unlikely). You will most likely cause a pile up, and if you don’t, it’s because of the split second reaction time of your fellow travellers. Find somewhere out-of-the-way instead. Looking for where people aren’t walking helps you find a suitable standing spot.
  • if the train or the lift is already stuffed full of people, DO NOT SQUISH THEM FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR BIKE! People don’t like being squished any more than necessary. Wait for the next one.
  • if you are wearing a [huge] backpack, CHECK YOU HAVE SPACE TO TURN ROUND – you are liable to wallop someone without realising it. Also, taking it off and putting it on the floor will make it easier for more people to squeeze themselves into the carriage.
  • if you get on the train and someone offers you a seat DON’T DITHER ABOUT – either sit down or decline (politely). If there are 2 (or more) of you, come to terms with the fact that you might not be able to sit together during rush hour. The chances of someone else jumping up and offering your travelling partner an adjacent seat is remote. Especially if there is a vacant seat in the next row. You might well be lucky, but it isn’t a right. Say thank you, even if you are facing the wrong way and you didn’t get a window seat.
  • if you need to sneeze, COVER YOUR NOSE, even if you don’t have a hanky or tissues, the chances ate pretty high that you still have a shoulder and/or hands. Use them.
  • if the train’s full and you need to get out at a central (or otherwise busy) station, the chances are huge that other people do too. DON’T BARGE PAST THEM ALL TO GET TO THE DOOR WHILE THE TRAIN’S STILL MOVING. They exist. They can’t disappear to satisfy your need to be the first off the train.
  • if you’re playing with the ticket machine to get prices for imaginary journeys while you’re waiting for your train, and someone is standing close by waiting to buy a ticket, cancel the imaginary journey and STAND BACK TO LET THEM BUY A TICKET. You can carry on when they’ve finished.
  • if you see a person with crutches or a white stick or even an ordinary walking stick, or a buggy, DON’T GET IN THE WAY. They probably need a little bit more room to manoeuvre than you do.
  • if someone gets off the train to make room for you to get out, SAY THANK YOU.

(I won’t continue, I’m cross enough as it is!)

Is it really that difficult?!