Hi-diddle-dee-dee, a hermit’s life for me

As Corona and the madness that goes with it spreads, I have decided to take myself out of circulation for a couple of weeks. This is for two excellent reasons:

  1. I do not want to get the Corona virus.
  2. I do not want to have to fight with crazy people over toilet paper. (I wonder how long these people will be sitting in their toilet paper fortresses before they realise they’ve forgotten to buy food and water…)
Happiness is…

However, it turns out that the hermit’s life actually suits me down to the ground so, in case anyone else is struggling with their period of isolation (whether self-imposed or not), I thought I would share some of my positive experiences.

  • Aside from the obvious benefits of not having to brush my hair or wear any make-up (as evidenced in the photo), choosing what to wear for the day has now been boiled down to two options – do I stay in my pajamas or do I put on my tracksuit? In fact, when all of this blows over, I’m not sure I’ll be able to readjust to wearing shoes again.
Happy feet
  • This is probably more one for the ladies (but who’s to judge) – it’s time to let the girls out! Yes, if you’re only wearing a pajama or tracksuit top, putting on a bra seems kind of pointless so feel free to let your boobies breathe.
  • Showering is optional – as is the need to pluck or shave anything. When you’re home alone with nobody else to smell you or cut their hands on your leg hair, you can let your hygiene standards droop as low as your titties. For online meetings and appointments, you only really have to make half an effort – Profi on the top, party on the bottom.
  • Thanks to Corona, or Covid-19 to give it its gangsta name, I’m learning new vocabulary, both in German and English. Hamsterkäufe is used to describe panic buying in German and hamstern is also a verb, meaning to hoard. (Don’t you just love this language?) And, thanks to the beautiful Trevor Noah for coining “pandumbic”. Unfortunately, I fear that the pandumbic will continue long after the pandemic has shuffled off its mortal coil.
  • Speaking of the fight against stupidity, if you only have yourself to talk to, you might find that your conversations have actually got more scintillating than when you interacted with the wider world. “What’s that, me?” “Ha ha ha, God, I’m hilarious…”
  • Consider joining an online gym. There’s nothing like a German shouting at you to “GIB GAS!!!” to increase your motivation levels. I’ve been working out every day (for at least 2 days now) – in the dark, obviously, so my neighbours can’t see me huffing around my living room, red-faced and sweaty, with boobs a-flopping. (This is the one time the no-bra thing isn’t a great idea.)  The idea is that I will emerge like a beautiful butterfly in a few weeks time – after I’ve showered, plucked and shaved, of course. The other advantage is that my exercise mat makes a rather pleasing farty noise when my back hits it at just the right angle and speed. Who says exercise can’t be fun?
  • And finally, think of all the money and time you’re saving. No lengthy commutes, no going to bars or clubs, no going anywhere really. Instead of sitting in a noisy, overcrowded pub, shouting at your friends over overpriced drinks, you can get quietly smashed in the comfort of your own home for a fraction of the price. In fact, it might even be recommended as who knows if Covid-19 can survive in a person who’s more alcohol than human? Might be worth an experiment.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for now. How are you coping? Personally, I’m off to sit on my sofa with a glass of wine, waiting for the day when Corona is just a crap beer again. I raise a virtual glass to you all and hope that you stay happy and healthy.

And please, don’t beat anyone up over toilet roll. Beat them with toilet roll – the world will be like one big Corona pillow fight. Wonderful.

 

 

 

 

 

See gulls?

After five years of living in Berlin, it seems I have finally found a pleasing pocket of this sprawling metropolis that suits me down to the ground. Yes, I recently moved to the lovely, leafy suburb of Pankow – and I only had to go via Wedding, Charlottenburg, Friedrichshain, Neukölln, Wedding (again), Lankwitz and  Friedrichshain (again) to find it. Well, nobody ever said life in Berlin would be easy.

The great thing about Pankow is that it’s (shock horror) a couple of stops outside the Ring train line, which means that it’s largely free from hipsters, wankers, hipster-wankers, men who wear trousers that show their ankles, drunks, drug dealers, drug users, pickpockets, people on trains who reek so much you can smell them on your hair and clothes for hours afterwards, foreigners who expect everyone to speak English, and people who walk around with poo running down the backs of their legs. Yes, Berlin is a wonderfully diverse city like that.

OK, I’m back. The Berlin Tourist Board just called to offer me a job…

Anyhooooooo, anyone who knows me knows that I have long lamented the local habit of people dumping their useless crap on the street. However, in Pankow, even this is rather civilised. People actually put out useful stuff like kids’ clothes and toys, books, and household objects that… wait for it… still work. And woe betide anyone who goes rogue.

Asocial, uncultured people left me here. This is Pankow, not Kreuzberg. Wake up. (I might fall in love with whoever wrote this if I ever find them.)

And so it was, last Saturday, I was on my way back from the speed-packing odyssey that is LIDL when I saw a little treasure trove outside my very own apartment building. It could be that I’m getting old, or perhaps even odder, but I was overjoyed to see that someone had put out mugs. Yes, MUGS!

The sign says that you can drop a small donation to the Berlin Animal Shelter into their mailbox. CIVILISED.

Now, you might be thinking it’s a bit strange for someone to get so excited over something so mundane but bear with me. You see, I’d bought these stupid cups in Kaufland when I moved in, with kind of fancy handles. Little did I know that I wouldn’t even be able to fit all of my midget fingers in there and that gripping the handle in a certain way would cause calluses on my ring fingers.

(I have also just realised that it’s rather difficult to take a photo of a finger on your right hand when you’re right-handed. And that my knuckles might be a tad overweight.)

So, I grabbed the two biggest mugs (with gently rounded handles) I could see and strolled back to my apartment, pleased with my haul. I sent a message to my building’s WhatsApp group thanking the “mysterious neighbour” who’d left out the brilliant cups and got a nice message back. All was well in the world of Pankow (or Pandow, as I now think of it).

“Be bambootiful” 🙂

A couple of days later, I was scratching my healing calluses (because I’m a very sexy person) when a personal WhatsApp message popped up on my phone.

“Hi Linda, this is Sigrid from the front building. You recently took the cups that my husband left out. Was there a white cup with a “Möwe” on it?”

Shit, shit, shit! Had I done something wrong? Weren’t the cups put out for people to take after all? Had I accidentally stolen from my lovely new neighbours? Was I being a weird foreigner in the land of German unwritten rules? And what the hell was a “Möwe”? It didn’t sound anything like “panda” but this is German so who knows!? ARGH! Panic, panic, panic!

I willed my wizened fingers to function and entered “Möwe” into Linguee. “Seagull”. Huh. OK. Couldn’t really get much further from a panda. Relief flooded over me. Then I remembered the other mug. I was pretty sure it was just plain gold but I pulled it out of the cupboard in trepidation to make sure there wasn’t a seagull I’d missed anywhere. Nope, no seagull. Thank God.

I messaged back to say that I hadn’t seen any mug with a seagull on it and Sigrid replied to say that maybe her daughter had hidden it somewhere. Laughing smileys were exchanged and we went our separate virtual ways, with me safe in the knowledge that I could go on living in my apartment without being known as the “sticky-(callused-)fingered Irish girl”. Phew.

Still, I like a story with a happy ending so I messaged her yesterday to see if she’d ever found the mysterious seagull cup. Turns out it’s nowhere to be found. Either her daughter is a really good hider or someone else on the street has a penchant for cups with seagulls on them. Who knows? Will we ever know?

And people say life in Pankow is dull…

(It is. It really is. Please don’t move here. Especially if you’re a hipster, wanker, hipster-wanker…)

 

 

 

Send me your stories!

After four and a half years here in Germany, I think (hope) I’ve tripped over pretty much every obstacle this crazy, wonderful, bureaucracy-loving land has put in my way. Each time, I picked myself up again, albeit with a muddy face and grazed knees, had a chuckle about the absurdity of it all, and carried on – writing a blog post or two (actually 154 of them) along the way.

Still, I thought, surely there’s a more bump-free way to integrate into German life? (I’m getting contemplative in my old age, you see.) It was around this time that a German colleague approached me with the idea of working on a German-English book together. We toyed with the idea of writing a dual-language storybook but I’m crap at fiction; I find real life is generally much funnier.

So I started thinking about what I would have appreciated when I first moved here, with around four words of the language and a naively optimistic attitude to becoming German. The answer was – a “German in my pocket” – someone who could answer my questions, tell me the right way to say something, and basically just guide me through everything from scaling the wall of bureau-crazy to figuring out which pizza toppings I was ordering. Short of shrinking Germans so people can carry them around with them everywhere, the next best solution seemed to be a book. 

So, we’ve written one!

At the moment, we’re adding the finishing touches, making sure everything is “in Ordnung” legally and financially (in case it actually sells) and then it will be formatting time. We’re hoping to publish at the end of this month – I’m working with a German so this will most likely happen. We’ve got 20 chapters, chock-full of useful information, FAQs, useful vocabulary and (hopefully) some entertaining reading.

Now, obviously I’m hi-larious but I thought a nice way to round out the book would be to add some funny anecdotes from other expats here – you know, to show that we all go through the same stuff and (for the most part) survive. And that’s where you come in.

Anything from the red tape madness to everyday adventures; if it’s funny, I’ll find a way to make it fit. All I need is a paragraph or two and the name you’d like to be credited under – this is your big chance to finally be Tallulah rather than Nora or Doris if that’s what your heart desires.

So please, have a think, take a little time to write a few words, and put them in the comments below. If you’re shy, you can send it to me at linda_ogrady@hotmail.com – although surely Germany has knocked any shyness out of you by now.

Making me happy should probably be reward enough but, if your story is included, there might be a few giveaways…

(Note: This is all me and totally unapproved by the German partner so don’t take any giveaways as a given.) 

Thanks in advance!

Linda.

 

Toilet training

If there’s one thing the Germans seem to love, it’s explaining the obvious. Yep, you might think that your folks did a pretty good job toilet training you all those years ago and that you’ve been using toilets successfully ever since, but that is clearly not good enough for our German friends. Oh sure, they try to educate in “humorous” ways, but really, anyone who puts this amount of thought into the correct usage of toilet facilities is not messing around.

So, hold in that pee until the end of this blog post and you will be rewarded in toilet heaven…

Say NEIN to poo!

The sign says “All colleagues who don’t have their workplace here in the office, please pay attention to the following instructions from the Board!” The exclamation mark makes it fun…

There is then an entire laminated A4 page of instructions, which, if you actually took the time to read, you’d probably wet yourself. Two things spring to mind: firstly, did the people who do have their workplace in the office get some sort of special training which makes them exempt from reading the instructions? And secondly, did the Board members really take time out of their day to come up with a list of instructions, type them up and then laminate them? If so, that is some classic German efficiency right there.

You might think it goes without saying but never, EVER, pee out of your shoulder while holding your arms out wide. The Germans will not think you’re big or clever and there’s a fair chance you’ll end up peeing on your own hand – serves you right. Instead, perch on the edge of the toilet seat, hold an imaginary book, point your toes towards the ceiling and let rip. At least I think that’s what it means.

It’s no secret that the Germans like a good agenda – so much so, that they’ve even come up with a 5-point agenda for washing your hands. No, you filthy creature, you will not be spreading your dirty viruses on German soil. You will follow the agenda! Put your hands under running water (as opposed to unrunning water?), soap ’em up good and proper for 20 to 30 seconds, also between your fingers, rinse thoroughly and dry your hands with a paper towel. Got it? No? OK, here’s a more simplified version with no words and bigger pictures.

And just in case you’re still a bit confused:

Finally, one thing you’ve probably been using incorrectly all your life, is your toilet brush. Not to worry, the Germans are here to save the day.

No, you silly billy – don’t use it to brush your hair! Ganz falsch!

Toilet paper is used to wipe your Arsch, not a toilet brush! But you’re getting closer…

Ah, there you go! Yes, toilet brush for use on a toilet. Oof, the relief of finally figuring that out. I’d been wondering why my hair always smelled a bit funny.

Thank you, Germany. I’d never have got there without you. And now, dear reader, go forth and pee with Germanic abandon. But remember, not out of your shoulder.

Falling short

In contemplating the 473,937,493 “easy” steps it would take for me to become a real German, I never imagined that I might need actual steps to complete the journey. Or, at the very least, a stepladder. Yep, it turns out that I may just be too damn short to be a proper German.

Ever helpful, Germany has been throwing some not-so-subtle hints my way for a while now.

1. I can’t reach around two thirds of my flat.

I’m sure that smug German egg cup is laughing at me…
So close…

German apartments were clearly not designed for leggily-challenged Irish women. Everything in the kitchen and the bathroom has to reside on the bottom shelves as they’re the only ones I can reach without having to stand on a chair. What lurks on the lofty top shelves will remain a mystery, but the good news is that I only have to clean what I can see. I just have to remember never to invite anyone over who’s taller than me – which could rather limit my social circle here in the land of the German giants.

2. German mirrors mock me. 

Does this make my head look big?

See that dark speck at the bottom of the mirror? No? Look a bit closer… Got it? That’s me. Or at least the only bit of me I can see in the mirrors in many cafés, bars and restaurants. I have to make sure that I look semi-decent before leaving home because that’s probably the last glimpse of myself I’ll catch all night.

Standing on tiptoes might reveal the top half of my fringe; jumping up and down creates a weird gurning expression that isn’t really conducive to checking if my make-up is OK. It also attracts some rather odd looks from the other women in the bathroom who aren’t Lilliputian and will never understand my short-world problems.

3. Limited limbs

German clothes, it appears, were designed for German people. Go figure. That’s a photo of the sleeve of an XXS jumper. My hand is actually in there – it’s just somewhere around the elbow mark. German trousers make me footless, German jumpers leave me handless and kneeless. The upside is that even if I fail to make it to the gym for a week, I still look tiny thanks to the swathes of German fabric floating around me.

This is all quite compelling evidence but the real kicker came a few days ago. I found myself in the strange and wholly unusual position of actually wanting to cook something. As the only things that are an absolute must in my kitchen are tea, milk and sugar, this would require a trip to the supermarket. I sauntered around picking up what I needed and eventually happened upon the frozen foods section. As everyone who is kitchen-skills-impaired will know, it’s always good to have a back-up pizza in the freezer so I decided to add one to my basket.

Unfortunately for me, freezers in German supermarkets are German-sized and stocked by German-sized Germans. And naturally, the one I wanted was right in the back, packed in tight. I slid across the glass top and leaned in. Nope. Not quite there. I leaned some more. My hand brushed off the edge of the box. Almost…

I hoisted myself onto the edge of the freezer and stretched. Both feet dangling above the floor, I gripped cardboard but couldn’t dislodge the damn thing. Grunting with effort at this stage and vaguely aware of someone standing behind me, I elegantly dismounted and turned around with a “nothing to see here” expression on my face. A slightly bemused-looking (TALL) German man was standing there.

Can I help you? 

I answered his chest:

Who? Me? Oh, I’m fine but if you insist… (nonchalant shrug)

He reached into the freezer, smoothly freed my desired pizza and handed it to me.

Erm, thanks. That was a bit embarrassing. 

No, no! Not at all! It really was packed in there! 

Bloody Germans are so nice. And frickin’ tall.

There, there… don’t fret – you were totally worth it. Mmmm, delicious pizza…

In conclusion, it seems the one step that might stump me, is the fact that I’m stumpy.

Hmm, kind of rhymes…

OK, here goes:

There was a young girl who was stumpy,

Her road to being German was bumpy,

But with a “der,” “die” and “das,”

Her short Irish ass,

Was determined she wouldn’t be grumpy. 

You. Are. Welcome.

An Irishwoman, a Brazilian and a Norwegian walk into a…

For the season that’s in it…

Expat Eye on Germany

It’s not the start of a bad joke but, rather, the beginning of an excellent Friday evening. You see, the Germans have regulated the hell out of most things but, thankfully, they haven’t got around to stopping foolish foreigners from trying to make very dangerous German drinks.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Feuerzangenbowle…

Feuerzangenbowle Feuerzangenbowle (Fire tongs punch)

I had my first FeuerverylongGermanword at the Christmas market at Schloss Charlottenburg last week and, as with most things German, I instantly fell in love. I mean, it’s got wine, rum, sugar and FIRE – what’s not to like? So, when Young Germany posted a recipe, I just knew I had to try and make it myself.

Now the thing about making Feuerzangenbowle is that it’s rather dangerous, so the last thing you want to do is make it at your own apartment. Instead, you put the suggestion out there and wait for…

View original post 731 more words

How to derail a German fitness class

Now that temperatures have dropped to around zero in Berlin, I foresee a lot more sitting happening in the months to come. With my arse already big enough, I decided it would be a good idea to join a gym. As luck would have it, FitX have just opened a new fitness studio fifteen minutes from where I live. At €20 a month, with a free backpack, towel and snazzy drinks bottle thrown in, the decision to join practically made itself.

Free stuff! Yay!

This was a couple of months ago and, believe it or not, I have actually been going – two or three times a week, no less. (Oh please, no need for applause – you’ll make me blush…) While I am, obviously, your perfectly normal gym-goer, other people’s behaviour has me slightly confused.

  1. Why do (mainly) women go to the gym to hog a machine and then spend their time doing nothing but looking at their mobile phones?
  2. Why do (mainly) women friends go to the gym to hog two or more machines and then sit there chatting to each other like they’re in a coffee shop?
  3. Why do men sound like a rhinoceros having an orgasm when they lift weights or do a few sit-ups?
  4. Why would any woman show up for a work-out in a skirt and ankle boots?

The mind boggles.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d try one of the classes FitX offers, figuring it would be good for both my German and my gelatinous bits. Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen, as it were. Naturally, I didn’t want to overdo it – this would be my first exercise class since leaving Latvia – so I chose X-Life which, judging by the video, seemed to be largely aimed at pensioners. Perfect.

I walked into the studio, where around six or seven mainly older, matronly types were warming up. Thanks to my astute observational skills, I noticed that they all had resistance bands (I had to google what they’re called in English) and stick thingies (enough googling – you know what I mean) beside them. I sauntered nonchalantly over to the equipment area and picked up one of each. Clearly, I had this fitness thing down.

I did notice that the other ladies’ sticks had knobby bits on the ends and mine didn’t, but the woman next to me had the same one I did, so I figured it would be fine. The trainer arrived; she had a butt you could bounce coins off so I supposed I was in safe hands.

We ambled our way through the warm-up exercises, puffed our way through some resistance band training and swung our sticks around with gay abandon. (Most people don’t know this but I was a majorette in my youth so I have plenty of experience’ swinging a stick around – I even did it in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade once. Unfortunately, I dropped it due to nerves and, to this day, can still hear the hooting cries of “yeh dropped yer baton, missus!”  ringing in my ears.)

Image result for st patricks day majorette
That’s me on the right. Not really. (Image taken from The Doyle Collection.)

Back in the present day, I found myself in a pair-work exercise with the rather substantial lady next to me. We’d crossed our resistance bands and were stretching them as best we could. My partner seemed to have more upper-body strength than I did, however, and almost rendered me airborne several times.

Ahh, exercise over. Back to the safety of solo stick exercises. Up on the stage, the trainer held her stick out in front of her, holding it at both ends, and proceeded to bend it into an U shape. I watched as the septuagenarians in front of me followed suit and tried to do the same. Huh, my stick wouldn’t bend. I glanced over at my fiendishly strong partner and she seemed to be having the same problem I was. Much grunting and grimacing ensued but the damned things wouldn’t give an inch.

We must have been making a bit of a ruckus as the trainer suddenly noticed us, red-faced and sweating, down the back of the room. She looked slightly incredulous for a second then burst out laughing into her microphone.

“Oh my God! Ha ha ha! It won’t work with those ones! Oh God! Ha ha ha! You must have been wondering how everyone else was so much stronger than you were! Ha ha ha!!” She was almost doubled over at this stage.

That was when I realised that my hapless partner and I were trying to bend the metal sticks you put weights on while everyone else had flexible sticks made of foam – with the telltale knobby bits on the ends. There was nothing else to do but join the trainer in her convulsions of laughter.

“I’m Uri Geller!” I sang out as I ran over to pick up the correct sticks for me and my partner. We did our best to continue with the rest of the class but every time we caught each other’s eye or the trainer looked at us, it was game over and all three of us dissolved into fits of uncontrollable giggles.

So, what started out as a butt-improvement exercise ended up with me being the butt of the joke.

You really can’t take me anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming German in 473,937,493 easy steps

Two 50+ Canadians Moving to Germany

Two 50+ Canadians Moving to Germany

forgottenplacesberlin

Erkundet mit mir verlassene Orte in Berlin.

A walk and a lark

Getting some fresh air and exploring the world

Flying To The Stars

Adventures in Space, Time, Polyamory, and Fishing

Linda O'Grady

English-Language Services in Berlin

Are You Happy?

Inese's Blog About Family Time in England

A Note From Abroad

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

MAPAS EN MANO

Es casi como viajar gratis.

Joshi Daniel Photography

Images of People Photoblog