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 broken glass and freedom

Yesterday I cleared my workshop of almost every trace of my existence.

I say ‘almost’, because I left my ex-colleague something to remember me by:

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This is a box of broken glass bigger and heavier than you can move around easily, and less substantial than it would need to be to pick up and pour into smaller containers.

I wouldn’t normally be so schadenfroh (something like bitchy), except he’d written a notice in the usual dustbin to say I shouldn’t add anything to it…

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There’s something very therapeutic about the noise glass makes when it breaks. It’s better when done purposefully, and even better than that when hurled into a box in the knowledge that you are not only doing what you promised (clearing up) but also creating an annoyance factor in the process :).

All that’s left to do now is hand in the key and I can shake the dust off my sandals (or boots in this case) and be done with it all.

On cheese, fairy lights and going out with a bang..

..or a fire alarm, depending on personal preference.

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I celebrated my leaving party on Monday.

I invited everyone who’s worked with me, and who I’ve worked for, since being here (4 and a bit years). I even invited my soon-to-be-ex colleague – it WAS kind of held in his honour after all – but he luckily didn’t come.

In the invitation I asked for volunteers to help me with preparations. There were so many helpers – not only beforehand, but also during and after the party itself – that it makes my head reel a bit just thinking about how lucky I am to know such amazing people. Some brought cake, biscuits or chocolates, one made a galoptious potfull of curry, some decorated the conference room, one helped me bake scones, some made sure the food was hot before carrying it in, others moved tables, collected dirty plates or washed up. There are probably a whole lot of people who did things I didn’t properly notice but who were busy in the background ensuring everything worked out.

My own part in the proceedings was largely unhelpful. I basically wrote a list of jobs I thought were necessary and left them to it while I busied myself with torturing pieces of cheese-and-pineapple with pointy sticks in the kitchen.

At exactly half past 4 they called me into the other room and sang “for she’s a jolly good fellow” (rather off-key and with a range of different lyrics, but who cares about tunes and words :))

The ‘party room’ looked fantastic, I’d brought fairy lights and candles and food and told my helpers to have fun playing. They’d mostly disregarded the ideas I’d had, but it was so much better their way 😉

I declared the buffet – if you can call a table of scones and cakes a buffet – opened and made a beeline for the tea.

***

I’d made several trays of food at the weekend, things like pasta bake that just needed warming up. I left everyone to their plates and went to put the trays of food in the oven – a posh job, where the oven racks/shelves are attached to the door and the whole thing opens like a drawer.

I was standing in the kitchen talking to the ‘curry-lady’ (who was cooking rice for me) when they called me into the other room (again). I left her to look after the oven as well as the rice and went back to the party.

One of my bosses gave a speech and presented me with a bunch of roses, Cornelia Funke’s Tintenherz trilogy and a hedgehog made of “waschknete” (plasticine you can use as soap) with rolled up money stuck in it as spines. Even those who couldn’t make it to the party had contributed and written in the card.

imageI was still admiring the roses when the rice lady came in to ask me to check if the food was done. Back I went to the kitchen. No rest for the celebrated, huh?

What started off as simply checking the state of the cheese, turned into something like the tablecloth trick only less elegant. The drawer was heavy and opened slowly and the pasta tray stayed put in the middle of the oven. I shut the door again in the hope it would be pushed back on to the rack and announced that it was falling off. Unfortunately no one understood what I meant. The helpful person next to me apparently thought I was too weak to open the oven and hurried to my rescue. He opened the oven door with full force and was privy to the best view of the tray emptying itself all over the bottom of the oven.

We scooped up as much as we could and I went back to the party, taking the curry with me.

Next thing we knew, was the fire alarm was blaring and a horde of fire engines was rushing to the scene…

Still, if you’re going to leave, you might as well make your mark first.

I really really hope nothing actually burned elsewhere while the firemen inspected the cheese-lined oven.

On molecules and foreigners in the workshop

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Earlier this week:

My soon-be-ex-colleague is sitting at a table with 2 or 3 others drinking beer. I’m at my work bank, making prettifull molecules* for a couple of people who have just graduated/completed their PhDs.

An Indian customer comes in with a box of glassware to be repaired. He officially ‘belongs’ to a different workshop, but their glassblower is off sick and we’re close by and he usually comes to us if it’s urgent.

Indian, to colleague, in English: “Can you mend some glass things for me?”
Colleague, not understanding: “hrmph?” (his version of, excuse me, can you repeat that?)
Indian: repeats himself
Colleague, ranting, in German, and gesticulating wildly in my direction: “No. I don’t see why I should do all the work. I’m not the only glassblower in the place, ask her if she can make time for you, etc etc etc”
Indian, to me: “I’m sorry. I don’t understand what he is saying, I think I have made a problem for you…”
Me: “not really, he’s always like that”
Indian, shrugs: “mmmf, he’s German”

We discuss what he needs and he walks towards the door.

Colleague: “…and next time bring a translator with you!”

I go back to the molecule, and my colleague to his beer and a monologue on foreigners and artistic colleagues.

ARGH.

12 and a half days til I’m free!!

* if anyone wants prettifull glass molecules please get in touch 🙂

On the upcheeringness of good music when nothing works out

I can’t work well at work.

I have a problem with people watching me, and since a lot of people seem to want to spend their day sitting at my workbench I spend a lot of time not working at my best. It’s not my workshop, so I can’t banish them, but I can’t work with them either. Sometimes I’m actually glad of their company – it helps spread the load my colleague can be. I don’t have such a problem with making easy stuff with people looking on, so I save the ‘easy’ tasks for when they’re there. When I don’t have anything tricky to do, or a deadline to meet, it doesn’t matter so much. It’s the stuff that needs to be in the oven today and which involves concentration and perseverance that gets me. I officially start and finish an hour later than the rest, but they regularly stay to talk and drink (less hassle than going to the pub ;)), which doesn’t help much. I often find myself staying on once everyone’s gone home in order to get things finished.

Having the workshop to myself doesn’t always make the glass work better, but it helps me to deal with it going wrong when it does.

I hate it when my glass doesn’t co-operate. I hate having other people watch it not co-operating. And I hate said people asking questions about said non-co-operational glass. As if that wasn’t enough hate for one paragraph, I also hate them giving advice.

This rant is for everyone who wants to watch me work:

At the risk of sounding incredibly stuck up; I generally already know what I SHOULD have done differently, or how it was supposed to work. Sometimes it just doesn’t. I don’t need to hear it from backseat glassblowers. Or other pestilential nuisances. I don’t need to hear the tutting noises as you watch the piece I’ve been working on for an hour fall to bits. I don’t need the sharp intake of breath or the sideways “how-could-you-be-so-stupid” glances. I don’t need you to start a lecture, only to have you interrupt yourself to tell me there’s no point telling me since I’m not prepared to be helped. I don’t need the sighs of supposedly long-suffering teachers. I don’t need you to watch me forget to put corks in the tube ends and then laugh as I blow through, instead of into, my glass. I don’t need you to helpfully point out that the glass is bending while I’m holding one end between my teeth, balancing the other on some precarious pile of boxes, and struggling to put the graphite-paper back into a joint-holder that’s just come loose. I can’t simultaneously pay you and my glass 100% of my attention. I probably don’t need reminding that I still have something to finish for tomorrow, I probably know and am waiting until you go elsewhere so I can start it. I don’t want you to ask me if whatever I’m currently struggling with is Meister-worthy. I don’t want to talk about whether my jeans are in or out of fashion while I’m melting frits into tubes. To be honest, I don’t think I’d care much even if I wasn’t trying to concentrate at the time. I don’t care that you know all-there-is-to-know-about-glass. I don’t care that you ‘have-my-best-interests-at-heart’. I don’t care that you get goosebumps from watching me being so rubbish. I don’t care how much you feel for ‘the poor maltreated glass’. I don’t want to know. If you’re so great, either go and do something useful with your greatness, or make me feel great enough to attempt something more demanding in your presence. Making me smaller doesn’t make you bigger. And the more you have to tell me you’re great, the less I’ll believe you actually are. The people I consider great are great without telling me (or anyone else) about it. You can’t help but notice greatness.

Sometimes I need to be left in peace to figure it out. I need the space to test things out without anticipating your reaction.

Rant over.

Today.

I spent most of the day faffing about, leaving the tricky stuff for after work. I was accompanied into my evening by one of the non-glassblowing watchers. He didn’t stay long, maybe half an hour or so.

I had a complicated glass filter to repair. I did the main work yesterday but had forgotten to melt the broken ends of the spring-hooks. The oven wasn’t full enough to turn on so I hadn’t yet tempered it. Frits are temperamental at the best of times so I didn’t want the gas-air flame to accidentally reach the frit while warming them. So I didn’t warm it at all. Neither before nor after. Idiotic really. Thing is, I wanted it finished by Monday, so I took the risk. Idiotic, like I said.

Moving the shards of several hours’ work aside, I started on the next task: replacing an NSK14,5 with an NSK29 on the end of a 3 way tap set at an angle to a litre flask. Not easy to hold, but not [very] hard to do. I wanted to make my own flask though. The one I altered was made a couple of years ago by my colleague to show me how they were done. I’d made one afterwards and given it to the Doctorand who needed it. This one was kept in reserve. I knew I had been able to make it, this attempt was to see if I still could, and to give my customer something I’d made and not just adjusted.

I made all the preparations. Then I remade the central piece because I’d forgotten the Kernel needed an extension. ARGH. Then I reshaped the top of the central piece because it was too wide. Then I started putting everything together. So far so good. Litre flasks are heavy, and I’m out of practise. I’d also used a holder that was far longer than necessary for the right hand. The main join was okay, could have been neater, but as 30mm Einschmelzungen go it wasn’t bad, especially when you consider I haven’t done one in months. The problem was the tube on the other side. After fighting it for a while I decided to take it off completely and join a new piece on. In the time it took me to prepare a new join, the old join had got cold enough to break when I reheated it. ARGH. I tried to mend the ever lengthening splits, but it was a bodge-job and not a worthwhile one. I finally gave up when the glass pulled itself together and holes appeared. I tried rescuing the groundjoint but it fell off the holder and onto the floor where it smashed.

At this point, almost 3 hours after I could have gone home, I had had enough.

PendantI turned the radio off, put a CD on instead, and spent a good 3/4 hour swivelling on my swivel chair watching the walls whoosh past. (random thought: I have no idea if anyone else remembers this but back in secondary school, we said “go swivel [on a duck]” when people were stupid or annoying or whatever, haven’t heard it said in ages but I had to think of it while spinning). By the time the CD was about halfway through I was a lot happier. When I finished spinning, I mixed some coloured glass ready for next week, made a pendant and went home. I guess I could’ve gone home as soon as the flask broke, but I was too wound up.

Like I said, having the workshop to myself doesn’t make the glass work better, but it helps me to deal with it going wrong when it does.