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 ๐Ÿ™‚ – and I’ve got more cooks than I expected ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ :).

On happy fish

Last weekend I went back to the fish market. I didn’t get there until about half an hour before the end, thanks to yoga, but there were still fish on offer.

Some of the sellers remembered me from last time, and some I spoke to for the first time.

One, when I asked him what his fish needed in order to be happy, shook with laughter and said he’d never heard of happy fish before. Apparently I am the first person he’s spoken to who wants their fish to be happy, as opposed to healthy, or the right colour, or good at producing young.

I think happy is a good criteria.

I came home with 21 new fish…

I’m going to need a fourth aquarium soon, at this rate ;).

On writing it out

– or “don’t write back in anger”

(Written yesterday; I fell asleep in the middle if the last sentence..)

Yesterday (Monday) I was mad at a situation involving several people and several opinions.

Today (Tuesday), I wrote them all an email. It took me a good part of the morning to get it into something that I could send, but work was out of the question as long as I was still cross. Glass, hard and brittle as it is, is very susceptible to feelings.

***

I took a copy to my favourite secretary to proof read for me. I needed to know if it was still too aggressive for posting. She asked lots of questions about the situation in general, and pronounced my email adequate for the circumstances.

I left it for a while, and when I came back to it and reread it, it made more sense read backwards, so I changed it round a bit, added a couple of new sentences, took out others and pressed send.

Finally it was gone, and with it, most of my anger.

***

I am now a whole lot calmer, and no longer feel the need for pointy instruments or punching bags.

I read the mail to DB when I got home. he said he wouldnt have been able to write it as well, and he’s German. ๐Ÿ™‚

***

So far I have received two (or three if you count two from the same person separately) emails from people who support me, my plan, my ideas and my way of getting stroppy while staying mostly neutral.

I think this might be the way forward. (Loud music – sleep – writing)

On the news

“The news” (as a whole) keeps telling me that scary things are happening in the world at the moment. I’m not too keen on scary things so I plucked up lots of courage as I walked past the newspaper salesman and risked a passing glance at the headlines on my way to the station. According to the main local paper, someone has found something poisonous on a bus in Berlin.

It seems “the news” was right. That’s pretty scary. I hope whoever found the poisonous thing is ok and won’t need too much therapy/anti-poison-medication.

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

On red lights

There is a solitary red street light on the road next to the river through the residential area.

Does that make it a red light district?

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ I spent/d a lot of unproductive time in a lot of libraries. It just wasn’t as frustrating as in this one.

On firsts

Today was a day of firsts.

Not only did I drive the best part of 600km across Germany, I also ate at a restaurant by myself :).

In addition, there were a whole heap of smaller and/or tiny firsts, including mending/editing the directory of the work’s computer to get it to recognise the user profile, diluting antifreeze for my windscreen wiper water, buying my first own iced coffees in a supermarket (I’ve only ever drunk/stolen DBs’ up to now), poking the button on a car park machine to provide me with a ticket and make the barrier go up (had to back up and try again to be anywhere near close enough to reach it! ;)), unwrapping and eating toffees while driving, changing the radio station while driving, driving on a motorway in the rain, overtaking 3 lorries at once (admittedly not in the rain), driving at 160-170kph (for more than a few seconds), driving through an 8km tunnel, navigating the million traffic cones in a roadworks-labyrinth in the dark, driving in a pedestrian precinct (by mistake), not finishing a meal in a restaurant..

The pedestrian precinct by day. This is where I found the way out ๐Ÿ™‚

I am now incredibly proud of myself, and even more incredibly sleepy.

๐Ÿ™‚

๐Ÿ™‚

๐Ÿ™‚

Good night all.

๐Ÿ™‚ zzzzzzzzz

On driving across Berlin with a fridge

While it wasn’t nearly as cool as hitchhiking round Ireland with one’s miniature fridge, I’d argue that driving accross Berlin during rush hour with a nearly-full-sized fridge on the folded down back seats of your car is slightly more nerve wracking, especially if it’s dark, drizzling, and the rear windscreen wiper doesn’t clean the top third of the window and the fridge covers the bottom half. Even more especially if you usually park under a lime tree and the entire car, but most notably the mirrors and windows, are slightly sticky, dusted in yellow grit and decorated with bird poo.

The fridge, the car and I all made it back in our respective one pieces* and that was the end of another educational day.
*as in, ‘got back in one piece’, except there were three of us. Not to be confused with onesies. There is no way I am going to dress either my car or my fridge in a onesie. The chances of me wearing one myself aren’t much greater.

On unequal injustices

I wrote this while on holiday in January. (I will aim to make the links work soon).

***

(Trigger Warning – contains information about sex-trafficking. May also contain too-much-information about periods…)

***

I was going to write a whinging, whining, self-pitying post about how stupid and mean and unfair and generally ‘meh’ it is, to not only be someone who inflates like a balloon* for the week preceding her period, but to do so while on holiday. Not only that, but to also start said period in an apartment where toilet paper has to be collected in a bucket instead of flushed down the loo. How gross is that? Also, it’s all very well peeing behind rocks when out discovering the island, ‘perioding’ is a different story, and the island im general isn’t particularly toilet friendly – the few-and-far-between public loos here close at about half past 6.

Yeah, then I watched a documentary about European sex-trafficking and underage prostitution and girls having to choose (at around 12 years old) between,
A) staying at home, where ‘home’ means in a hovel** with an outside loo or no loos at all, probably no electricity or running water, and a high chance of unemployed, abusive, alcoholic parents, with no real perspective of improvement or a decent education or a job of their own in the future
or,
B) going out into the ‘big wide world’, where ‘big wide world’ means leaving everything you know, trusting a stranger, or a cousin, (or sometimes, in the most harrowing cases, a former close friend who’s come back to fetch you), to bring you across the border to freedom, with the promise of a good job or an education thrown in, but actually turns out to be having your trust broken, having your passport taken from you at the border and being made to ‘work’ in a bordell in the backstreets of an unnamed European town (or directly on the streets) where you are likely to be drugged up and forced to do unthinkable things with uncountable, mostly rich, men who have too much at stake to report the underage, underfed, underslept ‘staff’ in their bordell of choice. One of the bordells they’d just arrested in the documentary, looks, at least from the outside, like a typical house in an upper class housing estate. Inside, behind closed doors (and closed windows), lived a group of ’24-hour prostitutes’. 24-hour-prostitutes have to be available all day every day. No respite. Instead of informing the police, the ‘clients’ complained to the bordell, the same way they would complain about a hire car: ‘this one doesn’t meet the requirements’.
This upper class housing estate is less than 20km from where I live. It unfortunately isn’t the only one of it’s kind in the world.

***

The worst part of it, really, is that I can’t do anything about it.
I am a glassblower, not a social worker, not a politician, not a judge.
I can’t make laws, and I can’t even vote for them if someone else makes them (unless they’re made in England) because I’m English living in Germany.
I speak English and German (with a tiny bit of French and Spanish for good measure), not Romanian or any of the other East European languages most of the girls speak. Even if we shared a common language, I have no idea what I could say that would help, I don’t have any experience of living in hovels or bordells or any of the other things they’ve been subjected to in their short lives.
I can’t help them escape, can’t offer them an alternative, can’t brighten their futures.
I can’t even pay someone else to help them because I’m close to broke – I will have to talk to the bank when I get home as my account seems to have a leak, or more likely, a holiday-sized hole, in it. And then I need new glasses. And to eat. And to pay the electricity bill. And the water bill. And the phone bill. And all manner of things which I pretty much take for granted as necessary for life, but which are probably unimaginable to a Romanian 12 year old…

***

If anyone has clever, or workable, ideas or suggestions for things I could actually do (apart from pray, wish and hope) please let me know.

***

In the meantime, faced with all this information, which to misquote Stefan in this article about ‘reading rape’, “I don’t even want to have in my head”, I think I’ll stick with my holiday in an apartment with the strange loo-roll laws. Maybe I’ll still complain about them, but quietly, and in the knowledge that it could be so unbelievably much worse. And I’ll enjoy the rest.
* I have friends who were less round at 7 or 8 months pregnant..

** a real hovel, not a wantable hovel like Kate lived in.

On yoga as an unusual form of torture

One I wrote a long time ago (mid summer, sometime) and never got round to sending..

***

Until recently I’ve always been a bit, I don’t know, snotty about yoga.

I first heard about it 15 years or so ago when it was propagated as ‘not a good thing’ by the church youth group. I had no idea what it was or what happened when you went, I just knew it was to be avoided. It had a vague air of being some kind of sect, dangerous and fully unknown.

Years later, I figured out it was basically just a room full of people stretching and twisting themselves into complicated poses. At some point I started discovering that more and more people I knew, even Christians*, went to yoga sessions and treated it as a sport equal to, say, swimming or tennis.

Still, a sense of alien, almost silliness,  hung over my idea of it. It was a bit suspect in my mind, something for modern ‘alternative’ people, navel gazers, the odd ex-ballet-dancer who wants to keep supple, but mostly for the people who have kale smoothies for breakfast and salad for lunch; the ones who have perfect nail varnish and perfect hair all the time. The people who have precise, tidy lives and 3000+ friends on all the sites people collect friends on. The people I don’t really have much in common with. At least not on the outside. On the inside I imagine people are all much the same. Not that I’ve checked.

***

Recently, yoga has been mentioned implicitly and/ or explicitly incredibly often.

It started a year or so ago when I made fun of an advert for Everyday Yoga courses on offer at work. Turns out one of my colleagues’ wife is a yoga teacher, and he thinks that it really would be very helpful if everyone at work actually did practice yoga every day… Oops.

Despite trying hard to backtrack, I wasn’t very successful, and I probably made things worse rather than better. Ho hum.

Then a friend told me how helpful it is for her, followed by several blog-writers swearing by it, followed by another friend leaving a box of yoga-position-cards on the table in the room I stayed in, followed by a friend of DB’s mentioning how amazing he finds it.

Not long afterwards, DB and I went to the friend’s house to talk about something entirely different. Before we left, the friend’s wife told me I should go to the yoga course with her husband because it was SOOO good for him and would be good for me too. Bearing in mind I hardly know her, and that we hadn’t been talking about me having a problem or looking for a new sport, I was a little bit surprised and not at all adequately prepared to say anything sensible – like ‘no, but thanks anyway’ – and change the subject. Instead I mumbled something like, ‘ach, I don’t know……why don’t you go with him?’. She’d had time to rehearse, and had a list of more or less fantastic reasons to back up her choice to spend Sunday mornings at home. Not that I knew it was Sunday mornings at stake.. (and early Sunday mornings at that!)

It didn’t take long for DB (and his friend) to join in, ‘yeah, why don’t you go? You need to get out more’**, and I ended up agreeing to try it once.

***

As part of a semi-major garden reworking, DB and I took the old scrappy hedge out of the front garden. In doing so we won back a decent sized patch of land, enough for a miniature veggie patch. Whatever. That Friday evening we drove a couple of hundred miles and bought 11 box trees as a replacement hedge. On the Saturday, we dug an older tree out, dug a further 11 holes and planted the trees. On the Sunday morning I was up early to go to my first yoga session.

***

I survived the 2 hour session, just about, and came home to tell the tale. I spent the afternoon in the garden, digging and getting rid of the remaining hedge roots

***

On Monday, I felt like I’d been steamrollered. I haven’t had such widely spread muscle ache since the first time I went skiing. Every part of me hurt.

I hobbled to work, I crawled up steps, I tried to make sure I didn’t sit down if I needed to stand up again soon. Similarly, if I was sitting down, I didn’t stand up if I could help it.

I wasn’t sure if it was from yoga or the hedge or the root-removal, I just know it took a week to recover.

***

The session after that seemed even harder – I slumped into a heap when I got home and refused to move for most of the afternoon. The session after that was strange. It felt easier, but when I got home (at 11am ish) I went to bed and slept 4-5 hours solidly. Even after waking up I was in no fit state to actually do anything.

***

That was just after Easter.

I’m still going, several months later.

Not every Sunday, but probably every second or third, on average.

I ought to go more often, given that I go back several paces for every session I miss.

I am still incredibly unfit, and unstretchy, and incapable of remembering a string of positions.

But. And this is a big but (bordering on bigger than mine). I am making progress. I no longer fall asleep the minute I get home after a session. I am able to walk on Mondays. I am able to plank for as long as it takes for the course leader to say, “breeeeathe iiiiinnnn… cobra!” (Which is luckily only about 2 1/2 seconds, but you have to start small, right?), I have been known to balance on one foot with my arms twisted around each other in my own personal impression of half-an-eagle. (I still don’t get the obsession with half animals. I especially don’t know why anyone would want to crawl into the position of a half-baby, even if it is the yoga equivalent of a get-out-of-jail-free card. But there we go. I didn’t make the rules.)

I still think it’s a form of torture, and I still have a heck of a long way to go before I am in any way graceful or elegant, or even capable of touching my toes without bending my legs, but I’m confident that I’ll continue to get better if I continue to go, and better is gooder than worse.
..Still. it is a shame about the Sunday morning lie-ins!

๐Ÿ˜›
* writing this now, it seems like a ridiculous distinction to make. At the time the realisation shook my world…

** which is true, but unusual for him to say. Usually I suggest things to do, and he finds reasons not to do them.. maybe I should get his friends to suggest the other things too…. ๐Ÿ˜‰