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 not knowing how to party

On Friday I went to the summer party at the company some of my customers work for. It was quite a big do, and was supposed to be official for the first few hours and turn into a more casual party as the evening wore on. Even the invites said “open-ended”.

I was a little bit late (only 2 hours…) because I had a last minute project to finish so it could go in the kiln and be picked up on Monday, but I figured that 2 hours isn’t really late for an open-ended party that starts mid-afternoon.

When I got there, the hall was half full of people milling about, chattering and drinking. The bar was doing a great job of distributing apple juice and sparkling water. The barbecue was as good as over and the buffet table was ravaged.

At one end of the 8 square metres of plate-covered table lay half a baguette and a couple of tortilla chips. The rest of the buffet wasn’t, though you could tell it had been once. As I said, it was ravaged.

This is probably the point where I should have gone to find someone to thank for the invitation and made small talk. Instead, I cut off a chunk of baguette while there was still baguette to cut before I looked round the hall.

From an estimated 100+ guests, I knew precisely one person, by sight and from a few very brief conversations, and he didn’t really count because he’s so far up the food chain I could hardly march over and demand he introduce me to everyone else. Also he loked like he was already deeply involved in a discussion.

I looked round the stranger-filled room a second time, turned round and left, still eating my chunk of baguette.

***

It seems I don’t know how to party. (Especially when I don’t know anyone.)

That’s more embarrassing than I expected.

As much as I want to, I don’t know how it’s supposed to work. Do you go up to random strangers and start talking, or stand on the edge of a group and listen to what they’re saying, which might not be for public consumption..? Or just sit in a corner and wait until someone asks who you are and whether you’re supposed to be there in the first place..?

If there’d been a queue for the food (or indeed if there had even been food at all) I could’ve made some comment on something or other to whoever was standing next to me. If there had been a presentation or a speech I could maybe have referred to that, or caught someone’s eye when something was unintentionally funny.

As it was, I really have no idea how it works.

Help?

On beach parties

Originally, we wanted to spend the day on the beach. We packed a picnic and a bottle of water, swimwear and a couple of towels, and off we went.

We got there just after high tide, and the dryest sand was damp. Damp sand never stopped us before so we sat down and ‘set up camp’. I paddled a bit, and DB stared at the waves a bit. I looked for green stones in the black sand, and DB lay back and let the sunrays dance on his stomach.

It didn’t take long before the wind came to join us, shortly followed by his friends fog and rain. The sun decided the beach was too crowded, and disappeared.

Not long after that, we were back in the car and the beach party continued without us.

***

Instead of a day at the beach, we spent the day driving round the north of the island.

The map promised us scenic roads, with views across the valleys, the fog presented us with a view most tourists will never see – the island is not known for its fog. If we’d painted the car windows white, it wouldn’t have changed much.

***

At the most northern point, we parked with the intention of finding a café. We took three steps away from the car and three hurried steps back again.

Despite all our organisation, we had no jumpers with us, (well, nothing substantial, I almost always have a long-sleeved-something with me) and the combination of wind, fog and drizzle wasn’t really all that inviting, especially as all the cafés had open fronts, so we abandoned that idea too.

***

It’s a good thing our apartment has a kettle!!

On walking the last miles home

It’s very strange to be walking back to somewhere that in a few hours will no longer be ‘home’.

I left the party just before midnight, walking the stretch of road from the station to my flat.

At just gone midday I was on the road with the last of my possessions on the way to Berlin.

12 hours can make a huge difference.

Even if I go back to visit, even if I get off at the same station, I can’t see any reason why I would walk that stretch of road. Even if I do, I wouldn’t be going ‘home’.

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

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

image

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 shopping successfully

I don’t much like shopping.

Food-shopping is bearable, clothes-shopping generally isn’t, although it is marginally better than shoe-shopping, and a whole lot better than bra-shopping.

I tend to avoid it if at all possible.

However.

Sometimes life strikes, and I get invited somewhere that calls for something other than jeans.

It seems life has struck.

I have been invited to not one but THREE weddings in the next 2 months.

I have a dress I wear to everything; graduations, parties.. everything. It’s long and dark chocolatey brown and fits and I would have worn it to all the weddings. Luckily none of them know each other, so I can get away with wearing the same outfit if I want. Except after consulting with H and A it became apparent that brown isn’t a good wedding colour. It seems ankle/floor length isn’t a good wedding-watching-dress length either.

Well that sucks.

I’m at home with my folks at the moment.

When I asked my mother for her opinion on what one wears to weddings and told her I was going to wear my brown dress, she suggested we went shopping.

The ensuing groaning noises were ignored, and I was whisked away to a rather lovely city to find something suitable.

3 hours later my brother was considerably more bored and my wallet would have been considerably lighter if I hadn’t paid with plastic.

In the past year I have been on 3 memorable shopping trips, for new things other than food. There may have been other trips, but I don’t remember them.

Each time I have surpassed all expectations and been awed by my success.

Last summer I bought 4 pairs of ‘shoes’ (= 2 pairs of going-out sandals, 1 pair of everyday sandals and 1 pair of summer shoes), last month I bought 4 bras (in just over half an hour before they kicked me out of the shop), and today I bought 4* dresses.

They are all delightful in their own way. If someone had asked me to describe the sort of thing I was looking for I wouldn’t have described any of them, but they are really really pretty and they fit and they weren’t even horrendously expensive.

Sometimes I amaze myself.

I’m going to need more invitations to dress up now.

*no idea what’s going on with all the 4s…

On partying like a German

Warning: This post contains predjudice and unfair descriptions 😉

When in Germany, party like a German 🙂

The stereotype/predjudice is that the Germans are a very serious people. I’m not sure that that’s true, they’re just incredibly orderly.

Even getting drunk and dancing on tables has to be done in an orderly fashion.

Where I live, they organise a huge festival for approximately 3 weeks twice a year.

I went yesterday.

***

(unfinished post snippet from 2013, posted (unchanged) on 29th July 2016 as part of a huge blog-tidying marathon…)

On supermarkets and inefficiency

ARGH!!

Not that I’m at all p****d off.

At myself as much as at them.

I went shopping this morning (why I’m home on a workday is another story).

I wanted to buy milk, among other things.

One of the 50.000 milk sorts was on offer.

One that’s produced by happy, non-genetically-modified-feed-fed, local cows.

It’s usually more expensive than I can justify paying for milk.

As I said, today it was on offer. So I bought 3L. I’m cooking for a party on Saturday so 3L isn’t really that much. If I hadn’t been aware that I’d have to carry it, I might have bought more.

I’d just been to the dentist and my entire mouth tasted gross. There should be laws against what dentists are allowed to put in people’s mouths. But I digress. The point is, I couldn’t wait to get home and clean my teeth.

I packed the milk (and other stuff) in my super-eco-friendly cloth bags* and didn’t check the receipt.

Sitting here, trying to convince myself that balancing the books is a good way to spend a sunny Friday morning, I just noticed the lack of on-offerness in the price of my milk.

ARGH.

Why is it not possible to transfer the price on the shelf to the till?

Do we not live in the most technologically advanced age ever? Is Germany not one of the leading machine-producing countries?

Even if it wasn’t, it can’t be that difficult to get a minion to run to the cashiers and tell them when milk is on offer.

I don’t understand why these things don’t just work without having to think about them.

ARGH.

On the positive side, I guess the cows are happy.

 

* YES! I remembered to take them with me for a change 🙂

On dancing with my eyes shut

For some reason I can dance better with my eyes shut.

I’m going to assume it’s because when they’re open, they fully occupy my brain with all the visual imput, too selfish or attention-seeking to let my hands and/or feet join in. Once I close them, I’m much more aware of what it is my dance partner’s hands are telling me to do, and I’m much more able to follow his lead. He is also forced to lead better/more accurately, because I can’t see what is likely to happen next and position myself correctly. I am competely dependent on his guidance and don’t(/can’t) compensate for his mistakes 😉 It involves a fair bit of trust, but you kind of have to trust the people you dance with anyway. I also find I don’t have to think so much – my feet go where they’re supposed to by themselves and leave me free to enjoy myself 🙂

Today I kept them closed almost all the way through the evening and afterwards the guys all thanked me and told me it was good leading-training 🙂

For all of you who don’t know: I’m learning to dance Forro which is a very cool brazilian partner dance. If you’ve never heard of it, look it up, and if there’s a club near you offering taster-sessions or parties, go to one. Even if you’ve never really liked dancing until now. It’s a lot less formal than most partner dances, and a lot easier to start. You can get involved with intricacies later. You also don’t need to take a partner with you because you all swap around and dance with everyone.

Anyway. I’ve been dancing at the weekly Forro-parties for almost a year now, on and off, and have recently started proper lessons. Today was lesson day. I almost didn’t go, but I’m glad I did 🙂

On unexpected happy endings

There are at least 2 that spring to mind instantly.

1) The people I was going to go skating with phoned me afterwards to see if I was feeling good enough to let them come over anyway. The meat had apparently defrosted and it’d be a shame to waste it, especially if I’d tidied up 😛

So they came and there was space for them (and the barbecue) and I think a good time was had by all. It was almost 11pm by the time they arrived, the last coming at almost 2am because of working late. We ate in 2 sittings because we didn’t want to wait so long before starting. I think I fell asleep while they were eating the second time but it didn’t matter too much, thankfully my guests are used to entertaining themselves ;). I was woken up to yet another glass of Baileys and a foot massage – can’t be bad. I (and all who wanted to stay) eventually went to bed at about 5am. Not quite the early night I was expecting, but I don’t regret it. It makes me more certain planning’s not my thing though!

2) The ‘other guy‘ from work came to my workshop to apologise.

He’d thought about it and decided that despite not really changing his mind about what he’d said, it was none of his business and that he was going to keep out of it from now on :). It’s amazing what an apology can do to straighten things out between people.

On fighting suitcases…

(-The story behind yesterday’s walk home-)

Over the years I’ve had a fair bit of practice at this. As a kid we went on holiday incredibly regularly. Mostly camping, or visiting grandparents, but nevertheless ‘going away’. This almost always calls for packing and carrying some kind of luggage. The folks packed the tent and other useful stuffages so I only had to pack MY things. Usually a backpack is enough for a short trip, but since we almost invariably drove to our final destination it didn’t really matter if things didn’t fit. We had the sort of suitcases you can sit on to do up, ones with buckles and locks. Later, ones with zips. When the family took up flying and hostelling, backpacking moved more into focus. We seemed to fly to the most distant airport from where we wanted to end up, and walk. Walking from an airport equates to carrying your backpack. We also spent considerable time travelling between towns and beaches and generally being on the move. Over time it became normal to have a really good think about whether something made the grade to stay packed, BEFORE setting out. When I started DofE I realised just how important it was to get everything into one backpack, including all the important stuff like tents, sleeping bags and stoves.. (Having a bag with decent straps is also sensible, but that’s a different story). Doing the Offa’s Dyke walk a couple of years later I was surprised to find that not everyone had had the same experience. We (as a group, so as not to name names) sent approximately 25 kg of ‘excess baggage’  home from a remote post office en route.

At some point in [my] history, suitcases with wheels became more common. I don’t know why they hadn’t been thought of before, but they’re a brilliant invention. Anyone who has tried travelling with 30kg of anything will back me up on this.

I moved to Germany 7 and a bit years ago and since then have had a lot of opportunity to fly, move house, visit people a long way off and go sightseeing. I have got through about 4 suitcases, with and without wheels, and have been known to pack my things in washing baskets. As a rule I have too much stuff and, despite all the warnings, still carry too much on a regular basis. Especially when coming back from shopping 😉

Considering all this, I don’t seem to have made a lot of progress when it comes to actually fighting the silly things.

My folks were here recently and left me a ‘broken’ suitcase which I think originally belonged to my sister. I don’t really know where or how it’s broken, so I’ve been using it since to go shopping. I had a party at work (will probably make its own post soon) which I needed to cater for and this meant lugging drinks and food from town to my house, and from my house to work. When I usually go foodshopping, I take cloth bags with me, pick up an empty box while perusing the isles and therefore know how much more I can buy before my arms drop off. Once everything’s paid for it makes its way into my rucksack and/or my cloth bags and I go home. Easy. Ish. I live by myself, so most of the time I only have to feed one person. I eat enough, but there’s only so much food a person [of normal build] can get through so I don’t often have to carry THAT much home – unless Aldi has a good deal on huge plastic tubs or duvets or papercutting devices that is..

This time I knew I was feeding most of the people I spend time with at work and had come prepared. I had my sisters ex-suitcase with me.  I felt ready to take on the world. I got a trolley. WHOO!! – No more juggling with halffilled boxes while bending down to get something off the bottom shelf. No more onehanded unpacking. No more looking for a bigger empty box when the original becomes too full. Bliss.

The bliss lasted until I reached the other side of the till and realised I was going to have to give my trolley back.

Damn.

Then I remembered I had my suitcase.. So all was not lost.

While I don’t have anything very much against alcohol, I don’t see why I should buy it for other people when I don’t drink it myself. This doesn’t go down well in Germany. But anyway. My party, my rules. I bought enough for everyone to comfortably drink their usual fill, except I didn’t buy beer, I bought I bought fizzy water and fruit juice. This would be largely irrelevant, if it wasn’t for the fact that liquid is heavy. Very heavy. Heavier, in fact, than I’m guessing the suitcase had ever been subjected to previously. 18 bottles of water a 1.5L plus 16 L of fruitjuice = 43L. Assuming the packaging weighs nothing (which blatantly isn’t true) and that water and juice both weigh 1kg/L that’s 43kg. And I didn’t only buy drinks. I also bought crisps and other frivolities like onions and lettuce.

Having got myself and my shopping out of both the trolley and the shop, I realised I had left my buspass at home with my previous pile of shopping (even I don’t try to buy real food at the same time as drinks). I phoned a friend. No luck – when faced between going out for dinner and lugging the best part of 50kg up a hill I know what I would choose. They chose it too. The other people I tried phoning – the people I know have a car – were out. Walking it is then – YAY!! And then I found a bus ticket in my pocket. Not my buspass, where I can travel for ‘free’ (as long as I pay the monthly subscription), but a proper ticket which needs stamping. Better than nothing, and certainly better than walking the “long miles” (/4km) home (thanks RT).

Once on the bus I decided that my original idea was a very silly one, and that it made no sense to take anything home which was going to be needed for the party. I got off the bus at the stop closest to where I work (luckily on the same busroute) and tried to persuade the suitcase it wanted to come with me. It took more persuasion than I care to write about, but we both ended up on the pavement so it was okay. So far so good. Now to go about getting from the busstop to the party room. It is a stretch of maybe 150m. It usually takes about 2-3 minutes to get there, including the time you have to wait for the lights to go green. For this trip I think I needed something more in the region of 23 minutes. I stopped every few metres to let the blood back into my fingers and to get my breath back. I’d swap hands and tackle the next couple of metres and then stop again. I don’t remember the last time I made such slow and painfull progress.

When we finally got there, I unloaded everything liquid out of the bag and went home.
The next day (after a remarkably short night) I packed the 3 deep trays of freshly prepared lasagne into my trusty suitcase and trudged into work. They too were heavy, but nothing compared to the ordeal of the evening before.

The party happened, or didn’t as the case may be, and the leftovers were left for the next day. The next day came and went without making much of a mark on anything, which is why I came to once more be dragging my suitcase on and off busses and fighting for blood in my fingertips. However, I did leave the juice at work, to be collected at a later date. I might be a little overenthusiastic when packing but I don’t have a death wish.

The handle is made of plastic coated cloth sewn onto the end of the case, which I guess is pretty handy, but it does mean you have to either stoop or hold the case at about 45 degrees to the floor.

It bit me. Repeatedly.

For some reason I can only really pull suitcases or trolleys with my right hand as my left one stays too close to my body and so makes whatever I’m pulling bash my ankles. I’m used to having a telescope handle on my suitcases, which helps on the ankle-bashing front, but which this particular case doesn’t have. When you take a step the re-enforced end bashes into the back of your leg, and the handle digs into your hand and pinches the skin at the joints. Even when dragging with my right hand it bashed me. It might not have been an entirely fair fight, given that I still weigh more than it does, but I don’t think that gave me any advantages over it. I didn’t give up, but it didn’t either..  I suppose I must have won overall, since both I and it made it back in one piece, but I think I have to give it points for effort. It also appears to have suffered no damage at all, whereas my leg is decidedly more bruised than it was when I started.