Moving in with a German

Earlier this year, Manfredas asked me to move in with him. This was actually a brave move on his part as I’d previously told him that I’d set fire to my kitchen while making a ham and cheese toastie. Twice.

Still, from my point of view, it was a great idea for a number of reasons:

  1. Germans have better insurance than I do – i.e. they have insurance.
  2. I’d accidentally flashed my boobs at my elderly neighbour while I was getting dressed and he was having a smoke on his balcony. He’d been very unfriendly to begin with, but it turned out that all it took was an impromptu peep show to lead to daily invitations to his apartment for a drink. I politely (then not so politely) declined.
  3. I’d managed to clog my shower drain with hair beyond what my questionable abilities as a plumber could cope with. Loath to go and tell the Hausmeister and watch him pull a yeti out of there, I tried (and failed) to use my own methods.
Not to be confused.

I decided to leave my slightly blackened oven, randy neighbour and hirsute shower drain behind and accept Manfredas’ offer. (Sometimes I can be just as romantic as the Germans.)

Manfredas lent me some boxes from when he’d last moved and I assured him I would be packed up and ready to go that weekend. Unfortunately, it seemed that my box-putting-together skills were about as developed as my cooking and plumbing skills. Never fear – after about half an hour of arsing around on youtube, I found what I was looking for, put my first box together (with a lot of pause/play/swearing) and it was plain sailing from there.

Utilising a woman’s touch I didn’t know I possessed, I adorned Manfredas’ (sorry, OUR) flat with cardboard boxes, clothes and shoes, cosmetics, toiletries, and four wineglasses and a packet of Bisto – the only things worth taking from my old kitchen.

Me: (upon closer inspection of my new kitchen) I’m afraid I have to move out.

Manfredas: You just moved in! What’s wrong? 

Me: I can’t reach the wineglasses. This could be a deal-breaker.

German kitchens are not made for Irish people.

Luckily Manfredas – being the resourceful sort that he is – quickly remedied the situation and disaster was averted.

The Linda shelf!

While I could cope with living out of a suitcase for a week or so, I kind of needed to hit the ground running on the work front so the first priority was a desk, chair and shelving unit for my brand new home office. Yes, home office. I am now fancy.

An hour or so in Sconto and I was the proud owner of all of the above. In flat-pack form.


While Manfredas was happy enough to let me bash a dowel (I just had to ask him what the word is for “the little wooden things that you hammer into other things to make furniture stick together”) every now and then, it was decided that my unique skill-set would probably be better put to use in keeping the music going and the wine flowing.

Manfredas: Hmm, I don’t think the tools given are good enough for this bit. I need a drill. (Produces a rather nice Black & Decker drill set.)

Me: Bah haha! You own drills! 

Manfredas: Well, of course I own drills. How else do you think things get on walls? 

Me: Oh yes. Right. That makes sense.

Sometimes I forget that I’m a grown-up dating a grown-up.

Anyway, in a few short hours – for me, at any rate – the office was complete.

Don’t worry – the screwdriver is just for show.

Once I had everything in place, it was time for the next phase – showing me how to use the TV, the heating, the dishwasher, the washing machine and various other gadgets that Germans love. Amazingly, Manfredas has undertaken to do most of the cooking so a cooker tutorial didn’t really come into play.

This probably explains why the flat is still standing and we’re rubbing along nicely together. I guess he should probably put the ham and cheese on the top shelf of the fridge though…



The von Grady guide to Mauritius

Manfredas: You know the way it’s your birthday in January and mine in February? 

Me: Uh huh.

Manfredas: Fancy going to Mauritius to celebrate? 

Me: (running)

Manfredas: Where are you going??

Me: Packing! 

And so, after a near miss by Manfredas with the ticket inspectors on the S-Bahn, we were off.

I won’t bore you with oodles of photos of idyllic beaches, glorious sunsets or stunning scenery because you can google those yourself. Hint: google “Mauritius” – that’s really how it looks. I won’t even attempt to get my blog stats up by posting Halle Berry-style shots of me emerging from the water in a bikini. (Just google “Halle Berry bikini” – that’s far less scary.)

That’s probably a more accurate representation of me on the beach in the midday sun.

Instead, I’m going to take you on a slightly alternative tour of Mauritius, courtesy of the ever-so-slightly rambling mind that is mine.

You are welcome.

Upon arriving at our guest house and settling in a bit, Manfredas announced that he would be putting his valuables in the safe.

Me: Good idea. I’ll do that too. 

Manfredas: Cool. I’ll just put the key up here on top of the wardrobe. 

Me: Erm, are you sure that’s a good idea? 

Manfredas: Well, if we take it with us and lose it, then we’re really screwed. 

Me: Yes, you’re right. Now we can only get robbed by German, Scandinavian or Dutch people. Oh, or short people with the strength to drag a chair in front of the wardrobe and stand on it. 

Manfredas: Sigh. 

Guest house pool (without me emerging in a bikini).

We were off to a great start.

I decided to make us a nice cup of tea to get things back on track. We had a choice of two cups – Piglet or Pooh. Upon closer examination, I discovered that the clever designers had not only drawn a picture of each character, but also broken them down by body part. I’m still not sure why they had to draw such close attention to Piglet’s arm but maybe someone can enlighten me…


After a couple of days’ relaxing on the beaches or by the pool, we decided we should explore a little. First up, the Botanical Gardens. 

Now, if you’re anything like me, when you picture botanical gardens, trees probably play a role. And, sure enough, it turned out that there were trees in the Botanical Gardens – lots of them. The only problem was:


Manfredas: How the hell are you supposed to “refrain from walking/standing under trees” in a botanical garden? 

If the finest of logical, German thinking couldn’t make any sense of it, then other people didn’t stand a chance.


However, it wasn’t just the tourists who were prone to a bit of flexibility with the Mauritian law…

This might be my new favourite photo ever.

As it’s entirely possible that Mauritian buses are solely responsible for global warming (kind of)…


… on this day, we had decided to rent a car to go and visit the Seven Cascades in the south of the island.

Manfredas: They drive on the “wrong” side of the road here but it’s fine; I’ve done it before.

As I’ve never felt unsafe in a car with him in the past, I took him at his word. And so began the most terrifying day anyone has ever experienced on the über-chilled island of Mauritius. Bollards, walls, ditches, sheer drops, lamp-posts, parked cars and scooters, small children and stray dogs whooshed past me, inches from my face.

Me: Jesus Christ! Could you leave a bit more space on this side of the car?! 

Manfredas: Sorry! I don’t want to go too far into the middle of the road! 


Manfredas: What was that? 

Me: (cowering) Kerb.

Manfredas: Shit, really?

Me: Yes bloody really! We’re not making it back with this mirror…

Manfredas: It’s fine. I’m getting the hang of it now. 


Manfredas: What was that?

Me: Car mirror…

A couple of lifetimes later, we arrived at where the Seven Cascades should have been.

Me: This looks like a bus depot. 

This was really rather observant of me as it was a bus depot. We circled around, following signs for the Seven Cascades and finally arrived at… the same bus depot.

Luckily, a local man was standing by. He ushered us down a dirt track, assuring us that there was parking down there somewhere. We crawled along, parked up where a couple of other cars were parked and got out.

Me: This looks like a dead-end dirt track. 

It was. Fortunately, our new friend wasn’t far behind us. In broken English/French, we managed a conversation that saw us following him down said dirt track.

Kindly stranger: (shoving something under my nose) Smell! 

Me: Oooh, lovely…

KS: Is mint! 

Me: Oooh, lovely. 

KS: Here! Is for you! 

Me: Oooh, lovely! 

I’ve never really known how to comment on plants and stuff.

I tucked the leaves into my handbag for politeness sake and we carried on a bit until we were finally greeted with a view of the Seven Cascades in the distance.

Me: Oooh, lovely! 

And it was. But short of hiking down there, that was as close as we were going to get. I tossed the mint on the path when our new friend wasn’t looking and we headed back to the car for the death trip home. This time, I wisely decided to close my eyes for most of it.

All in all, we had a fantastic time. The island is gorgeous, the people are among the friendliest on earth, the food is amazing, and Manfredas had what, I hope, will be one of his most memorable birthdays.

So, I’ll leave you with some random observations.

  1. Some guest houses have bed clothes that would be more at home in Latvia.
ARGH! My eyes!

2. Avoid Mauritian wine at all costs.

This was not Mauritian. Hence the smiling.

3. Mauritians take the sacred “O apostrophe” and use it to wipe their bums.


And finally, finally, since you’ve borne with my ramblings for so long, here’s the long-awaited bikini shot.

Just kidding.
Ahh, that’s better!

Au revoir!

Note: This post is in no way sponsored by the Tourism Board of Mauritius. If they see it, they’ll probably never let me back. 

German men 101

As someone who’s perfectly happy with her German man, you can imagine my surprise when I came across this event on Facebook:

German Men 101

German men are unique species. Usually, men are not easy to handle, but German men beat them all. It requires deep understanding of their nature, and the cultural differences, in order to survive a long-term relationship. 

We all experience the same: drinking habits, jealousy, your friends (particularly straight male friends), his friends and family, privacy issues, keeping his football trophy from 4th grade, and many more weird habits that you do not know how to digest…

Don’t worry! We are here to advise and support!! After years of dating German men (including getting married to some of them), we offer our knowledge and experience to help others. You are not alone!! 

We will have an overview and explanations for the most common and weird habits we observed through the years, ask questions, get answers and share war stories. Come to reveal the mystery!

I had several thoughts after reading this:

  1. It can’t be real.
  2. It sounds like a bunch of mad Eastern European women mistaking mad Eastern European men for lovely German men.
  3. I have to go.

It seems I was not alone on my first thought. The day before the event, the organiser posted:

People asked us if the event is real. So, yes, it is  We are looking forward to see you tomorrow!

Final thought – please God, let there be wine…

Men were not allowed “due to the sensitive topics” so I left Manfredas (chuckling gleefully at the things I do for this blog) and stepped out into the night. Around 20 minutes later, I arrived at the venue looking like a drowned rat and dripping onto the registration table. I paid my fiver (yeah, I know…), got a stamp to indicate my betrayal of the German men I love and hit the bar. I said a mental “thank you” to the Big Guy and got a glass of wine, scouting the room for the seat closest to the snack table.

I may have seen it all now.

Comfortably seated, I leaned over and spoke to the rather beautiful girl beside me.

Me: So, have you had terrible experiences with German men? 

Maria: Oh God, yes! So many! 

Me: Really? Like what? 

Maria: Oh, this one time, I was on a date in a restaurant and the guy told me that I was being too loud and everyone in the restaurant was looking at us and it was very embarrassing for him.

Me: Bah haha! I guess that was your first and last date! 

The room had filled up a bit and now there were around 20 women – and one guy. The Israeli woman hosting the event said that she had “allowed him” to be there as he was a journalist. Needless to say, he looked more and more depressed as the evening wore on.

Poor dude.

Suddenly, the screen was filled with my new (Brazilian, as it turned out) friend, who had made a video bemoaning German men’s inability to flirt. This was met with groans of approval, nodding heads and rolling eyes. German men cannot approach women or flirt, it seems.

The host, Tal, explained that this is because German men are both “afraid and respectful”. And, as only 17% of German men use dating apps, “you have to hunt them outside – you have to be creepy”.

I began to feel very, very sorry for German men.

If, however, you do manage to ensnare a German man (insert evil cackle here), moving in together will present a whole new set of issues. A German man’s idea of moving in together is that you move in with him and he clears you a shelf. The more serious it gets, the more space you receive. This, however, is not as easy as it sounds since German men hoard everything they’ve ever owned since they were babies.

Me: Hey Manfredas, do you have any trophies from the fourth grade? 

Manfredas: Erm, no. I do have a hockey trophy from 2007, though. 

Me: Hmm. 

True story.

If joint shelves are an issue, you can imagine how German men feel about joint bank accounts. NEIN!

Friends are another thorny subject. Your German man will have one to three people in his life that he considers friends. For example:

Jane: Hey honey, are you inviting any friends from work to the wedding? 

Jannes: I do not have “friends from work”. They are COLLEAGUES! COLLEAGUES ARE COLLEAGUES, FRIENDS ARE FRIENDS!! 

Jane: (sniffle)

According to the (possibly quite mad) women at this event, German men will also have major problems with your straight male friends. However, contrary to popular belief, this is not because they are jealous; it’s because they have low self-esteem and are afraid that someone will steal you away from them…

Some other choice words used to describe German men during the evening were: negative, pessimistic, passive, logical, private, over-insured… they also like a drink or seven but that’s not so different from Irish men (or women) so I’m alright with that.

Apart from the last point, it was like listening to someone describing people from another planet. If men really are from Mars, then most of these women were from TrES-2b (yep, it’s a real thing – Google it).

I’ve been chatted up by an Irish guy with the line, “your eyes are the same colour as my tractor”; I dated (for a short time) an English man who thought that we could visit each other using “the bridge between England and Ireland”; I had a Polish man hit on me in my kitchen while his wife was in the other room… So yeah, I think I’ll stick with the Germans, weirdness and all.



Pull up a chair

A company that I teach at has recently moved offices. Unfortunately, their new conference room is a bit like a fishbowl, surrounded by around 50 other people who waste no time in gawking in at my highly entertaining lessons whenever they happen by. While I have no problems with having an audience, my Germans (believe it or not) are a little on the shy side.

As a result, they’ve decided to have their lessons in one of their offices. This would be fine but for the fact that desks, shelving units and files take up most of the space. Being the short-arse that I am, I also can’t see my students’ faces over their computer monitors. In short (ha ha), it’s not ideal but I persevere.

On Friday morning, the usual dance of manoeuvering chairs around the desks and wheeling extra chairs in from another office began.

Me: Jesus, it’s like musical chairs in here. 

Bertha: What is “musical chairs”? 

Me: Oh, you know that game that kids play. If there are six kids, there are five chairs. When the music stops, they have to stomp on each other to get a seat. 

Bertha: Oh! Yes, Germans play that, too!

Me: What’s it called in German? 

Betlinde: Stuhltanz (chair dance).

Bertha and Bertilda: NEIN! It’s “Reise nach Jerusalem”. 

Me: What? Journey to Jerusalem? 

Bertilda: Yes. 

Me: But why? What does Jerusalem have to do with anything? 

Bertilda: I know not. 

Me: Don’t know.

Bertha: Maybe they have not enough chairs in Jerusalem? 

Me: Don’t have. Hmm, it seems unlikely. Jerusalem has been in the news quite a bit recently but I don’t think I’ve seen any mention of a shortage of chairs…

Curiosity sufficiently aroused, I did a Google search when I got home. It turns out that nobody really knows where the name “Journey to Jerusalem” originated but there are a few educated guesses. It could date back to the mass migration to Jerusalem during the Crusades when space on the ships was limited. It could also refer to a military manual from Byzantine times when (yawn) Emperor Maurikios devised a method to (yaaaawn) identify enemy spies…

Curiosity sufficiently dampened, I was about to close the window when things got interesting again. Seemingly, “Stuhltanz” is the East German term, and “Reise nach Jerusalem” is what the West Germans call it. They also call it “Journey to Jerusalem” in the Philippines, probably because the Philippines are so similar to Germany in every possible way…

I’m not sure how accurate the following translations are (I found them on a website called but they tickled me so here you go – a short list of what “musical chairs” is called in other languages:

Japanese:”Isu tori game”(The game of stolen chairs)

Romanian: “Pǎsǎricǎ mutǎ-ţi cuibul” (Birdie, move your nest)

Swedish: “Hela havet stormar” (The whole sea is storming)

And my personal favourite:

Russian: “Скучно так сидеть” (It’s boring sitting like this)

If anyone has any more to add to the list, I’d love to hear them. My thirst for largely useless information really does know no bounds!




Digging up the dog in Rheinsberg (Part 2)

Here it is – the long-awaited, “exciting” second installment.

You’ll be relieved to hear that I did eventually manage to get my cup of tea to my mouth, by adopting a new technique I like to call the “Wurstfinger-out manoeuvre”. I might patent it.

I am a genius.

While elegantly sipping my exquisite Netto own brand tea, I spotted Oma emerging from the tool shed in the garden and decided to pop out to say “good morning”. This was just after 10 a.m. and I was feeling rather pleased with myself for simply being up, even if I was still in my pajamas with bed hair. Oma, however, looked like she’d been up for hours and was suitably full of the joys. I raised an eyebrow at the toolbox she was carrying and she threw back a cheery, “So ist das Leben!” (Such is life!)

I couldn’t even imagine a life that would involve me chirpily carting around a toolbox at 10 a.m. (or any time of the day for that matter) but then I’m not a German Oma; she’d probably built the shed while I was sleeping.

Feeling a little underachieving, I went back inside, showered and got myself ready for the day. I figured I would probably have enough plasters to get me through.

Now looking slightly more presentable (and appropriately plastered), I set out in search of food. Before long, I hit the jackpot – a cosy little café that served… Käse-Schinkenbrötchen! The nice lady behind the counter even offered to heat it up for me. (I think there must be something gormlessly endearing about me, or my accent, that Germans find appealing as she just glared at everyone else who came in.)


On the way out, I discovered that there must be some live dogs* in Rheinsberg as dead dogs don’t poop, as far as I know.

The dump dump.

Satisfied with my morning so far, I set off for the palace and lake. My plan was to take a few photos of the palace and lake, walk around the lake to the obelisk, take photos of the palace and lake from the other side and then walk back again. Just when you thought this trip couldn’t get any more exciting, eh?

I set off, convincing myself that I was enjoying the (freezing) fresh air. Along the way, I passed a few other brave souls out for a walk, all very clearly German in their sensible footwear and all-weather clothing. Most of them gave me a cheery smile and a hello. It could have been the even more gormless, half-frozen look I was sporting at the time.


Anyway, I achieved my goal of making it to the obelisk, taking a lot of pretty photos along the way.

At this point, I was feeling so “at one” with nature, that I decided to carry on walking for a while. After ten minutes or so, I noticed something odd. I was completely alone. I hadn’t passed any Germans since the obelisk. Did they know something I didn’t? Had I missed a sign or something? I sent Manfredas a quick message.

Me: Are there wild boars in Brandenburg? 

Manfredas: Hmm, I think you’ll be quite safe in the middle of the day. 

Pfft. What did he know? Maybe the wild boar had never smelled Irish meat before and would disrupt their nocturnal habits for a nibble. Feeling more like eating than being eaten, I headed back towards town for some cake.

Unfortunately, I came to a Glühwein hut first.

Actually, there was nothing unfortunate about it; it was bloody brilliant. My cockles warmed, I continued on for around three minutes until I hit a likely-looking café.

A mandarin, cream and sponge concoction that was just as delicious as it looks.

Naturally, after all of this wild adventure I was exhausted, so I walked back to my apartment for a nap. A few hours later, I was ready to eat again. (I know – it just keeps getting more exciting…)

I’d spied a reasonably-priced restaurant on my earlier travels and, this being Rheinsberg, had no trouble getting a table. A lively foursome were sitting at the table next to me and thankfully, they didn’t look like they were about to leave any time soon. This was good as we were soon the only people left. We ended up having a nice chat but soon they were also ready to leave. Determined not to be the last one in the restaurant again, I downed my wine and left with them. We parted ways and I headed to the only Kneipe in town.


While it wasn’t the most salubrious of joints, I’m generally quite at home in these places so I plonked myself at the bar and ordered a glass of wine. The heads around me turned. Ah, “strange face in a local bar syndrome” – fun.

Me: Huh. Am I the only woman here? 

Holger: (nodding behind the bar) She’s a woman. 

Me: (casting a dubious look at the barkeep giantess) Oh, yes, of course she is! I meant, you know, as a customer… (eek, bad start)

Holger: Hmm, you speak good German but you don’t sound like a German. Where are you from? 

Me: Ireland. 

Holger: Oh, right then! Shot? 

Me: Yes, please. 

And so began a merry night of shot-drinking, bizarre conversations and terrible dart-playing. It seemed there was some fun to be had in this town after all.

Day three got off to a rather later start and was pretty much a carbon copy of day two, apart from a nice glass of wine on a (currently non-touring) tour boat – and skipping the Kneipe; I was worried I might have some damages to settle from my slightly erratic darts skills.

And, while I may not have dug up the dog, I did find where he’s buried.


All in all, a perfectly enjoyable few days. I can definitely recommend it – especially if you enjoy having entire restaurants to yourself at the outrageous hour of 9 p.m.

*If you’re confused by the dog references, you probably need to read the previous post.

Digging up the dog in Rheinsberg (part 1)

Me: I’m going to Rheinsberg for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s. 

Ze Germans:



“Da ist der Hund begraben.”

Me: The dog is buried there? What?

Ze German: Ja, this means it is a very boring place where nothing ever happens. 

Me: Oh, good. Perfect! 

After a pretty hectic year, a few days in a sleepy, picturesque town in Brandenburg sounded ideal. I’d booked a beautiful apartment a few minutes’ walk from Rheinsberg Palace, Googled how to get there and was good to go. It was while I was on the last leg of the journey, a bus ride from Neuruppin to Rheinsberg, that my phone decided I was roaming. But not to worry – unbelievably, they have WiFi (that actually works) on the buses in Brandenburg. A true post-Christmas miracle…

I texted the owner of the flat to tell her I was outside and, a couple of minutes later, was being warmly ushered in by a jolly German granny. After she’d shown me around the flat and we’d had a jolly chat, I decided that I would like her to be my new German Oma.

The flat was even better than I had hoped; really cosy, newly renovated and adorned with twinkly Christmas lights.

My very own garden

This being Germany, of course there was some form-filling to be done. Rheinsberg is one of the areas that charges a Kurtaxe (visitor’s tax) of €1.50 per person per night. I’m not sure why some places charge it and some don’t but again, this is Germany so there doesn’t necessarily have to be any logic.


Form filled in, Kurtaxe paid, Oma left me to it. At this stage, I was pretty hungry so I hit the town in search of cake. Unfortunately, most places I liked the look of were either having their Ruhetag (day of rest) or closed until March. Hmm. I wandered on and eventually found what I was looking for, settling in with my book, a cup of tea and…


I decided to take a walk back through the town to the palace and Lake Grienerick. It was around this time that I noticed how much Brandenburger folk like to stare at people, or maybe just me. In a town of only 6,000 inhabitants maybe I stood out a bit but I don’t think I’m that odd-looking. After one gawp too many, I alternated between beaming at people (instant confusion) or hitting them with the Latvian-Girl-Death-Stare (instant cowering wreck). This is how I like to entertain myself sometimes.

The palace and lake were pretty impressive, even in the already dimming light. I decided to leave most of the walking and photos until the following day but managed to snap a few pics before heading to the charming Ratskeller Restaurant (nothing to do with rats) for a glass of wine to warm up.

After that, it was off to Netto to pick up a few essentials (shower gel, tea, wine and crisps) and then back to my apartment for a little nap. I woke up a couple of hours later, feeling wonderfully refreshed and ready for food.

Unfortunately for me, my packing skills are a bit Irish, i.e. fecking everything into a bag with no particular rhyme or reason. While rummaging for my make-up, I felt something prick the index finger on my right hand. What the …? I withdrew my hand and watched with fascinated horror as the blood started flowing. Oh shite.

A quick (very quick) look in the bag revealed that my razor had landed blade up and that I had gashed myself quite badly. Then it was time to run. In the bathroom, I tore through sheets of toilet paper, wrapping the offending finger, waiting for the blood to soak through, binning the blood-soaked tissue and repeating. After a few minutes, the sink and surrounding area looked a bit like the bathroom in SAW. How could something as small as my finger bleed so bloody much!?


Swathed in half a roll of toilet paper, I found my handbag and tried to locate a plaster. In the chaos that is my bag, you never know what you’ll find but luckily, there was one plaster. I stuck it on, thinking that would be the end of the matter.

But no, blood started seeping out above, below and even through the damn thing. I thought about tearfully calling Oma at this point but decided she probably had enough to cope with as she had around 20 family members staying with her.

By now, it was 8.15 p.m. and Oma had told me that the supermarkets closed at 7. My last hope was the Späti (late-night shop). I waved my bloody stump at the Späti guy, while asking calmly and politely if he sold plasters. He did not. BUT (Gott sei Dank) LIDL was open until 9 p.m. I raced down the road, squeezing excess blood into a tissue as I went and located the plasters.

With three more plasters wrapped around the original plaster, I figured things would probably be OK. I found a nice Italian restaurant I’d seen a poster for earlier in the day and ordered. Little did I realise how difficult knives were without a fully-functioning index finger. Every time I pressed on the knife, blood started seeping out again until I’d gone through another four plasters and created the ultimate Wurstfinger. I was so focused on my finger that I failed to notice I was the last one in the restaurant. It was around 9.30.

I finished off my wine and hit the town. Unfortunately, the town was shut. Oh well. I guess I had been looking for a quiet few days; it didn’t get much quieter than this. Back at the flat, I fired up my laptop and started chatting to my Irish friend on Facebook.

Me: Aw crap, my finger is bleeding on my keyboard. Hang on…

Sinéad: Did you put pressure on it? 

Me: If shouting at it to stop bloody bleeding counts as pressure, then yes.  

Sinéad: Erm…

The next morning, I had a new problem.

Massive sausage finger vs tiny, tiny cup


Did the bleeding ever stop? Did I manage to get that cup to my lips? Did I dig up the buried dog?? Find out in the next “exciting” installment… 

Linda helps the homeless

Me: Did I tell you I’m volunteering at a homeless thing tomorrow? 

Han: Yep. ML. 

This has been going on between us for some time. For example:

Han: I quite fancy a sherry. 

Me: OMH. 

Han: Old man Han? 

Me: Correct. I had a grand-aunt who used to drink sherry. It always reminds me of her. Auntie Peg. 

Han: Peg short for Peggy? 

Me: NEIN. Peg short for Margaret. English is weird sometimes. 

Han: Ha hahaha!

But what was ML? Magnificent Linda? Majestic Linda? Selfless doesn’t start with an “m”…

Han: Mother Linda. 

Me: Ha hahaha! 

Best I could do.

Han: JML.

Me: ???

Han: Jedi Master Linda. 

Me: Ha hahaha! 

And so, on Christmas Eve, I found myself on the S-Bahn on the way to Ostbahnhof, passing Germans on bikes, tandem bikes and scooters… walking, Nordic walking and jogging. These people never stop.

Anyway, Kälte Nothilfe – it roughly translates as “cold (weather) emergency aid” – were hosting an event at YAAM nightclub to feed the homeless in Berlin for the 6th year running; they were expecting over 1,000 people. There were several different ways in which people could help but, this year, I decided I would be hands-on and actually go there. Setting everything up would start at 11 a.m. and the guests would start arriving at around 2 p.m. At 10.45, I was walking past Stump Tower.

Not to be confused with that other guy’s tower – though an easy mistake to make.

Having never done anything like this before, I really had no idea what to expect (though visions of me in an apron and hairnet slopping some kind of gruel into bowls had come to mind). I got to YAAM just before 11 o’clock along with a few other people.

As it turned out, I didn’t have any time to worry about what I was going to be doing. Several vans were parked in front of the club and I joined the human chain carrying crates of food, drinks and various other stuff into the venue. As soon as I walked in the door, I was plunged into darkness and picked my way carefully across the floor to where people were depositing the crates on counters and tables. Seemingly, they were working on getting the lights to come on…

This went on for some time. Daylight, crate, darkness, deposit, daylight, crate, darkness, deposit until all of the crates had been unloaded and piled high in the club.

I had never seen so much food in one place in my life. None of us were really sure what to do at that point but luckily someone took charge and we started sorting everything into different “areas” – fruit, veg, sweet stuff, fresh bread, tetra pak, dairy, tea and coffee, toiletries, pet food, cigarettes… The lights also came on.

I was closest to the fruit and veg so it would have made sense for me to start there but half the time I didn’t know if the thing was fruit or veg. Is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable? I figured Googling it would have looked a bit weird. And what on earth was that terrifying-looking, red, spiky thing? Clearly, I was in uncharted territory here.

Toiletries. Toiletries were safe.

Toiletries done, I appointed myself “Head of Glühwein Transportation” and starting hauling the boxes over behind the bar.

Safely transported, courtesy of moi.

I wanted to help the guy slicing the bread after that but there was only one knife. (Come on, people…)

Once everything was neatly organised, we started bringing in the Christmas trees.

The tables were set up and the decorating commenced. I realised that you can drop baubles on a concrete floor and they won’t break. Useful information. Tubs of white candy floss appeared (Weihnachtsmannbart – Santa Claus’s beard) and we draped it over the trees to look like snow. After getting through two tubs, my hands looked like Santa Claus’s beard so it was time to go to the bathroom to wash it off. Another girl was already there.

Me: Weihnachtsmannbart?

Girl: Yup. 

Even though the place essentially looks like a huge, bare warehouse, we managed to get it looking pretty festive.

I made my way to the “Garderobe” area where people were sorting out the clothing donations. I ended up working with a sweet, American, gay guy.

Mountains of t-shirts

GG: Oh my GOD! This t-shirt is soooo cute! 

(It was hideous – like someone had eaten 10 packs of Skittles and vomited the contents of their stomach onto some material.)

Me: I don’t think you’re allowed to take the stuff…

A German guy dropped a pair of trousers on the floor.

GG2: Aw, NEIN! 

Me: DOCH! (snigger)

At this stage, the guests had started arriving. As is pretty typical for Berlin, it was kind of hard to tell who was homeless and who was just artfully distressed. A Johnny Cash t-shirt that I’d just folded (badly) was swiped by a guy wearing better clothes than I was. But that was OK because I definitely didn’t have my eye on it…

I also definitely didn’t want these (sob).

By now, pretty much everything was done. The first guests were helping themselves to the food, or sitting at the tables talking and eating, and the DJ had started. I was ravenous.

As I wasn’t really sure what the policy was on eating the homeless people’s food, I thought it was as good a time as any to leave. I hit the Backwerk at Ostbahnhof and got back on the train. An old homeless man was in the same carriage. In a move reminiscent of the Latvian Snot Rocket, he pressed his fingers down hard on one nostril, expelled the contents of the other onto the floor and then repeated the procedure on the other nostril. In the reflection on the window, I could see the snot dripping off his moustache and clinging to his beard. I immediately ran over and wiped it away with my bare hands, smiling at him beatifically as I did so.

Did I heck.

I figured I’d done enough for one day and went for a glass of wine.

Happy Christmas 🙂

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