We did the Münster mash (Part Two)

We left while I could still walk under the weight of all the food and headed for the Altstadt (Old City) of Münster in search of German prettiness. I have to admit, from the area we had been in the night before, I was starting to think that the internet had lied to me about Münster being so scenic.

NEIN!
NEIN!

But, fear not. Yet again, Germany did not disappoint. For those interested in a little extra information – the rest of you can skip this paragraph – Münster is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia and is considered to be the cultural capital of the region. Münster was where the treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648, putting an end to the Thirty Years’ War in Germany. Today, it has a population of around 300,000 and is known as the bicycle capital of Germany.

For good reason
With good reason

With Manfredas periodically sweeping me out of the cycle lanes, we wandered around while I took photos of the beautiful buildings. Considering he’s been there umpteen times, Manfredas wasn’t much of a tour guide. Instead, he read the plaques on the sides of the buildings to me which, really, I could have done myself… (Ungrateful much, Linda?) Seemingly, there’s also a Latvian high school but, tragically, we missed that…

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Anyway, after walking around for hours under an hour, we’d worked up a bit of a thirst. We found a likely-looking café and, as it was a mild day, sat outside. Germans and their love of Luft and lüften… as long as it’s not lashing rain or below freezing, you’ll find them sitting outside. I huddled up under a blanket and we ordered some wine.

Don't ask me why I'm looking in the wrong direction. That was only my first glass, I swear.
Don’t ask me why I’m looking in the wrong direction. That was only my first glass, I swear.

The great thing about being in a smaller city is that you’re really under no pressure to rush around visiting all the “MUST-SEE” sights. We had had a nice stroll and now we were more than content to relax and chat with a few glasses of vino. The perfect day. Until the sirens started.

Me: Oooh, a demonstration! 

Manfredas: Ja.

Me: What’s it about? No more refugees? 

Manfredas: No, the other side. 

So, I dashed off to take a photo of the 20-30 people in Münster who think taking in more refugees is a good idea.

Not a German flag in sight
Not a German flag in sight

With darkness starting to fall, we decided to head back to the B&B for a power nap before dinner.

Clearly, Barbara had been up to her old tricks with the lüften again and the room was like an ice-box. Still, once I thawed out, I managed to get in a bit of shut-eye and, after a quick change, we were off out for dinner. Café Garbo picked up where breakfast had left off and served me my own body weight in Frikadellen (German meatballs) and fried potatoes. This time, I was too in shock at the size of the portion to take a photo… or I just ate it. You decide.

Manfredas rolled me into a taxi, and we drove to Kittys Trinksalon to meet up with a couple of his friends from the night before. Outside Kittys, I spied what is possibly the best invention I have ever seen…

20160123_235724

You dirty-minded bunch of…

This is what it actually was.

20160123_235747
Still pretty cool, right?

They even have their own website –

tail.de
tail.de

Having laughed myself sober, we headed for Münster’s Rock Factory where, I was told, no tourists ever go.

You lookin' at me?
You lookin’ at me?

We were stamped on our way in and didn’t make it out until around 4am. Well, I had to keep the Berlin side up, after all. The next morning, I woke up with a very fetching imprint of the stamp on the outside of my thigh which will give you a brief insight into how I sleep – if you ever wanted it.

We had booked breakfast for that morning so we went downstairs to see the ever-cheerful Barbara.

This is not Barbara
Not Barbara

Scrambled eggs, fruit in Greek yogurt, more bread than you could shake a stick at, juice, and as much tea and coffee as you could drink. I would definitely stay at Barbara’s again.

Barbara: Say “Würstchen”. (Würstchen = little sausage)

Me: Würstchen.

Barbara: (peals of laughter) I love getting foreigners to say that word!! 

Me: WüüüürstCHEN!

Barbara: (hysterics) 

Manfredas was clearly about to crack a smile but then realised that he would have to spend five hours in a car with a potentially annoyed Irish woman so he held it in. Germans are very sensible people.

Once Barbara had picked herself up off the floor, we hugged goodbye and Manfredas and I hit the road again. Luckily for him, I was exhausted after the night before so I slept for most of the first couple of hours. We stopped off at the Marienborn Memorial, the largest border crossing during the division of Germany. A bleaker, grimmer place would be hard to find.

Luckily, there was a truck-stop restaurant and shop nearby so we popped in for a Sitzpinkel and some food. It seems that where Germany depresses you one minute, it instantly tries to cheer you up in the next…

Mission accomplished
Mission accomplished

Little did I realise that the best was yet to come…

 

 

 

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We did the Münster mash… (Part One)

I’m determined to see as much of Germany as possible so when my good friend, Manfredas, invited me along on a trip to Münster, I jumped at the chance.

Road trip!
Road trip!

We set off at around 2pm on Friday afternoon. No, I tell a lie – we set off at EXACTLY 2pm on Friday afternoon. Once we hit the Autobahn, I did what any self-respecting woman would do – lifted up my top and yelled, “ROAD TRIP!!!” at the top of my voice. Don’t worry, I was wearing a t-shirt underneath it – I didn’t want to cause a pile-up.

This was to set the tone for what were probably the longest five hours of Manfredas’ life. If I wasn’t chuckling at “Ausfahrt” and “Gute Fahrt!” signs, I was targeting place names that started with “Bad”, shouting things like “BAD Nenndorf” in a strict voice while wagging my finger.

After a couple of hours, we pulled into a truck stop for food and drinks. For some reason, I chose the stickiest-looking Danish they had so the shop assistant, obviously suspecting my mental age, took no chances when handing it over.

Nice...
Nice…

Amazingly, Manfredas didn’t abandon me there and, a few hours later, we arrived safely at “Barbaras Bed and Breakfast” in Münster. The key had been left in a little safe for us, so we let ourselves in and went to our room. We were staying in “Cloud 4” which was a bit disappointing as I’d rather be on cloud nine, but ho hum…

I soon cheered up when I saw that the Münsteraner also favour the two-duvet approach to bedding.

I ate my sweet before taking the picture.
I ate my sweet before taking the picture – oops.

The room was lovely – light, clean and airy. A little too airy actually as ze Germans tend to go a bit nuts when it comes to lüften (airing), even in the depths of winter. One surprise feature of this property is the punching bag and boxing gloves on the second floor. Gropers of Münster beware…

I boxed for a little while, we freshened up a bit and got ready to hit the town. On our way out the door, Barbara showed up and immediately offered us a lift.

Barbara: So, where are you from?

Me: Ireland. 

Barbara: No way! I lived in Ireland for a few years! In Dublin.

Me: No way! I’m from Dublin! 

And so on and so forth. We were practically best friends by the time we got out of the car a few minutes later. I certainly couldn’t fault the Münsteraner on their friendliness and helpfulness so far. After taking a photo for the file I like to call “Random stuff that tickles me”,

Effing studio...
Effing Studio…

we found a lovely restaurant called Cult Eck and ordered. I had the chicken with tomato and mozzarella, fresh vegetables and fried potatoes. You’ll have to take my word for it that it was amazing – I ate it before I could take a photo.

After we’d finished, we walked down the street to a party being thrown by some of Manfredas’ friends. It was in a bar with the rather amusing name of “Nippes”. You paid €25 at the door and your drinks were free for the whole night. With an Irish woman and a bunch of Germans, this could have led to disaster, but it was a great night. Manfredas’ friends were really welcoming and more than happy to be tortured by my ScheißGerman for the evening.

The next morning, I bumped into Barbara on my way back from the loo so she made me a cup of tea, and we settled in for a natter about life, love and the universe. Shortly afterwards, Manfredas appeared.

Manfredas: Is there a flower shop around here? (We were going to visit his sister.)

Barbara: Yes. There is one a seven-minute walk from here. 

Manfredas: Not five, not ten, but seven…

Barbara: Yes, seven.

Me: Germans.

But, you know, if you can’t beat them, join them.

Me: OK, so if it takes you seven minutes to walk there and seven minutes to walk back, that’s fourteen. Let’s say that you’re in the shop for three minutes choosing and paying, so that’s a total of seventeen minutes. I’ll be out of the shower by then and able to let you back into the room. 

Manfredas and Barbara: (collective jaw drop)

With alles in Ordnung, we set off for Manfredas’ sister’s place.

DSC00009

The day was a bit gloomy but it was a pretty walk through leafy streets and along the canal. When we arrived, we were brought into the kitchen where more food than I could eat in a year was laid out. Three or four types of meat and cheese, around eight different types of bread, two baskets of fruit, butter, jam, Nutella, juice, water, tea and coffee. The woman had had her appendix out a few days earlier and she was still a thousand times better Hausfrau than I would ever be.

Me: Jesus. She really pulled out the stops for us…

Manfredas: No, this is just a typical Saturday morning for them. 

Me: Jesus.

Manfredas’ sister and brother-in-law were probably wondering why he’d chosen to bring a mute person to breakfast, but I was too busy eating to mind much.

Stay tuned for Part Two – coming soon! 

 

 

Wi-find out?

I recently committed my first truly (horrible) German act.

I was sitting at my desk one evening when the doorbell rang. I generally never answer my door as there’s a high chance it could be DHL or Hermes or any one of the billion other online companies Germans order from, leaving my hallway looking like a sorting office.

However, it was a bit late in the day for that, so I optimistically thought it might be my next-door neighbour coming to apologise for his incessant, inconsiderate warbling. I opened the door, willing to graciously accept his apology.

Stupid optimism.

I stood face to face with a girl I had never seen before in my life.

Stranger Danger: I need the code for your Wi-Fi.

Me: Um, what? Who are you? 

SD: Oh, I live downstairs.

Me: Riiiiight. And?

SD: I need the code for your Wi-Fi. 

Me: (in my head) NEIN!

Me: (out loud) NEIN! 

SD: What? But I’m a student and I’m only going to be here for a month and it’s going to take longer than that to get Wi-Fi set up…

Me: I know. Germany’s a nightmare but I really can’t give you my Wi-Fi code. Try the guy next door.

SD: He says he doesn’t have Wi-Fi. 

Me: (in my head) LIAR!

Me: (out loud) LIAR! I see him on his laptop every day. Anyway, I’m really sorry, but I can’t help you. 

The luck of the Irish was not strong with this one.
The luck of the Irish was not strong with this one.

I closed the door with her probably thinking I was a right bitch, and me feeling like a right bitch. But before you start thinking I’m a right bitch too, allow me to explain.

Germany has INSANELY strict laws against downloading. Fines start in the hundreds and can run into the thousands. An entire industry of lawyers has sprung up as a result of the intellectual property protection laws here.

Last year, a friend of mine rented out her apartment through Air BnB for a week or so. She came back to a fine for close to €1,000. She contacted the guy whose response was, “I was sick so I downloaded some TV shows”. Luckily for her, Air BnB stepped in so she didn’t have to pay it. (I was going to write something about her bacon being saved, but maybe a blog on Germany can have too much Schwein…)

OK, so as far as I can tell, the fine goes to the person registered in the flat. But if this chick is only going to be here for a month, chances are she won’t even register and then sod off back to her own country. Maybe she won’t download anything, but maybe she will. If she’s untraceable, maybe they’ll come after me. Paranoid? Perhaps, but that’s what living in Germany does to you…

They're watching you...
They’re watching…

My German friends whole-heartedly agreed with my decision. (Germans are a bit nuts about online security.) So, even if I do feel like a bit of an ass, at least I feel like a German ass. Progress.

German ass
German ass

And I know that neither of the neighbours mentioned in this post will read it as they (allegedly) don’t have Wi-Fi so I’m safe there, too.

In fact, the only crime I may be *guilty of in the near future is beating my noisy neighbour to death with his own music stand.

*(If he is found dead, I did not do it. Get me a lawyer.)

 

 

Dinner for One

As I’d got an apartment, registered my address, got a tax number, left the church, learned passable German, taken out health insurance, bought a bicycle… (takes breath)

…slept in a German bed, been to a German sauna, separated the rubbish, beaten the LIDL lady, seen the football, eaten the sausage, drunk the Glühwein and experienced the poo shelf, the next step in becoming German was obvious. It was time to watch “Dinner for One”, in keeping with the age-old German New Year’s Eve tradition.

Image taken from businessinsider.com
Image taken from businessinsider.com

Naturally, I was rather excited about this. What was this movie that had (allegedly) kept Germans enthralled and entertained for decades? It was time to find out. On New Year’s Eve (or Silvester, as it’s known here), I poured myself a nice, big glass of red wine and texted my friend.

Me: What time and channel is “Dinner for One” on? (OK, so I hadn’t done much research.)

Manfredas: Um, I think it was on at around nineteen hundred pm o’clock but I have no idea what channel.

Me: Shite. It’s ten now. Oh well. YouTube it is…

I had never heard of “Dinner for One” before moving to Germany, so I’ll assume you’re unfamiliar with it too. You can find information on how it came into existence here but the story is basically that of upper-class Englishwoman, Miss Sophie, and her servant, James. It’s Miss Sophie’s 90th birthday but the problem is that she has outlived all of her friends. Luckily, being 90 years old, she’s also a bit daft so James sets about moving around the table impersonating each of her (probably long-dead) friends in turn so she thinks they’re still with her on her big day. Sounds kind of sweet, right?

WRONG.

What follows is the most god-awful slapstick horror show you could ever imagine. Two minutes in saw me hitting the pause button and refilling my glass. Clearly I’d need more wine to get through this. I was only sorry I didn’t have anything stronger to hand.

Where’s the strong stuff when you need it?

As James impersonates the four other “guests”, he toasts Miss Sophie as each character at the beginning of every course – complete with German heel-click for Admiral von Schneider. Naturally, he gets steaming drunk as the night progresses.

The second time he tripped over the tiger’s head rug, I wanted to claw my own eyes out. The third time they slurred/chirped…

James: The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?

Miss Sophie: The same procedure as every year, James!

I wanted to glass my own ear drums.

By the time it got to the disgusting, lascivious wink in the last scene, I was wishing for my own tiger rug. Not because I’d developed a sudden taste for animal print, but because I would have deliberately tripped over it, cracked my head open on the counter top and ended it all.

The only saving grace of “Dinner for One” is that it’s just over 10 minutes long – any longer than that and I wouldn’t be here to write this post. If you’re wondering why it’s taken me until the 13th to write a New Year’s Eve post, I had to build up the fortitude to bring myself to watch it a second time. It actually got worse…

I mean, good God, what were the lovely Germans THINKING!?

Once I got back to Berlin, I asked all of my German students and friends if they had watched it.

NEIN.

Not one of them had. Not one. OK, so it might not be a representative sample of the entire German population, but not even ONE?

So, I’ve formulated a theory about this supposed German love for “Dinner for One”. Wait for it…

They don’t actually love it at all.

They tell foreigners that they love it. They convince said foreigners to watch it and then sit back and laugh uproariously when we fall for it. That’s what’s funny about “Dinner for One” to German people. Am I wrong?

If you’re feeling brave, you can watch the entire monstrosity here:

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forest Chump (Part Two)

On New Year’s Eve, I was out of bed by 9 for breakfast. Much as I love being a “Continental European”, I will never get on board with the continental breakfast – especially not in the depths of winter. Someone else could have the slabs of cold meat and cheese. I was having cereal, raisin toast and a lovely big pot of tea.

Where's the bacon?
Where’s the bacon?

After that, it was back to my room to shower and psyche myself up for my first ever walk in the forest. I toyed with the idea of going full-on Latvian and wearing heels but the Germans might kick me out for that. Sensible footwear it was.

So damn cute.
So damn cute.

I’d seen people heading down a little lane opposite the hotel, so that was where I started. The skies were ominous but the walk was actually quite… pleasant. I’d pass the odd dog-walker every now and then and we’d exchange smiles and hellos but apart from that, it was was perfectly peaceful. And very tree-full.

Sexy German trees...
Sexy German trees…

After I’d been walking for a while (keeping an eye out for wolves, naturally), I stopped a likely-looking, Jack Wolfskin-clad German couple in very sensible shoes.

Me: Hello, my fellow forest nymphs. Is there a lake around here somewhere?

They gave me a rather dubious look up and down and were probably thinking, “What the hell is this Arschloch doing in a forest?”

Horst: Well, there IS a lake, but it’s around a 7km walk in that direction. 

My face must have dropped slightly, as his wife chimed in.

Hilda: But there’s a river around 400 metres that way. 

Me: Right, be on your way, my feisty forest faeries… 

I trotted off in the direction she’d pointed in, but I think maybe the famous German sense of humour was at play here.

20151231_110540
Are you a river?
Are you a river?
Are you a river?

I decided to follow a man out walking his dog and three-year-old for a bit. I figured that if there were wolves, they’d probably go for the mutt or the toddler first. This, however, got annoying fast as (what are the chances?) it turns out they were English speakers and the daughter couldn’t get the names of the Seven Dwarfs straight. Before I started yelling, “Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and DOC!”, I needed to get my zen back. I climbed an embankment and did the unthinkable. Yes, it’s the photo the Latvians thought they’d never see…

It's me! Hugging a tree!
It’s me! Hugging a tree!

After sending the pic to a couple of people and enjoying the virtual “thuds” as they fell off their chairs, I sauntered back to the hotel, river-less, wolf-less but happy.

I enjoyed a quick red wine nap-cap and then went back to bed for a couple of hours. Turns out trees and fresh air are exhausting… When I woke up, I decided that there was no harm in being sociable for a while and hopped on a bus into Lübeck. The bus dropped me off outside a rather suspect-looking bar – you know the kind of place that you’re not sure if you’ll come out alive but you’ll probably have some good stories if you do? In short, perfect.

As I walked through the fug of smoke, every head in the place turned to look. At this point, it’s important not to show fear so I marched to the bar and asked the 80s hair-do behind it for a glass of wine. The man next to me immediately offered me a chair, shook my hand and introduced himself. In no time at all, we were gabbing away like old friends.

I thought the guy on the other side of me could be trouble as there seemed to be some tension between him and my new buddy – I would have ended up on my back on the floor if he’d lunged for him. But then, dream boat that I am, I got a toothless smile from the tattoo-covered trouble-maker and knew that I was going to be just fine. (In these kinds of situations, it’s always good to get the scariest-looking person on side.)

A guy came around selling roses and my new buddy bought me one. An hour later, he came around again, and my new buddy bought me a second one. Two white roses also appeared from somewhere else in the bar and soon I had a veritable garden in front of me.

Time to go
Time to go

After the drunkest man in the world accidentally smashed a pint glass on my jeans, it was time to head back to the hotel. Germany on New Year’s Eve is characterised by the sounds of rocket launchers and ambulance sirens so, rather than wait 50 minutes for the next bus, I got a taxi. I gave the cute Cypriot driver one of the roses and he almost teared up as it was the first time a woman had ever given him a flower.

Back in the room, I poured myself a glass of wine and settled in for some (probably) classic NYE entertainment, German style.

Yes, it was just as scary as it looks.
Yes, it was just as scary as it looks.

At midnight, I watched the supremely baffling German favourite “Dinner for One” and wished myself an excellent 2016. All in all, it was the perfect day.

The next morning, I woke up full of the joys and, after another walk in the forest, fairly skipped to the bus stop. I made my way to where I thought the bus to Berlin went from with a song in my heart and feeling all kinds of goodwill towards mankind.

Me: Tra la la la la are you going to Berlin la la la?

Random stranger: Can you speak in English?

Me: Sure! Is this where the Berlin bus goes from?

Random stranger: I am not ticket.

Me: Yeah, clearly the English thing is working out great for you.

And, just like that, I was back.

Until we meet again, trees.
Until we meet again, trees.

Forest Chump (Part One)

Every New Year’s, for as long as I can remember, has been pretty much the same. Different faces, different cities, sure, but the usual partying til the wee hours and then feeling like shite for the next three days. This year, however, I came up with the rather loony idea that if I start 2016 off in a slightly different way, maybe it will be a different sort of year…

This was when I decided to do something a bit Latvian odd, and booked myself a room in a hotel in the middle of a forest in Northern Germany.

As an afterthought, I sent my German friend, Simone, a message:

Me: What are the chances of me being eaten by wolves in a forest in Northern Germany?

(No reply)

Me: Or bears?

Simone: Zero to miniscule.

Me: Oh, OK, good. Just thought I’d check…

And so, armed with my deep knowledge of wildlife, forests, survival skills and all things “nature”, I boarded a bus for Lübeck. I figured I’d be seeing enough trees when I got there so I slept for most of the four-hour journey.

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Welcome to Lübeck!

I was ravenous by the time the bus pulled into the station, so I took a couple of half-hearted photos but was really on the hunt for food. After wolfing (haha) down a sandwich and a cup of tea, I was feeling more human and ready to check out the delights Lübeck has to offer.

As with most German cities, it’s ridiculously pretty and well-maintained. If only all of its residents could get with the programme…

Well, it IS closer to the Baltics...
Well, it IS closer to the Baltics…

The promised blue skies didn’t materialise and it was bloody cold but I wandered around taking in the sights anyway. I was rewarded with what every woman is looking for – a horny little devil…

I'm horny, horny, horny, horny...
I’m horny, horny, horny, horny…

And this one wasn’t all mouth and no trousers either. No, he had a great back story. It seems that when the first stones of St. Mary’s Church were being laid, the devil thought that it was going to be a wine bar, so he enthusiastically joined in with the building project. (Can’t say I blame him.)

But one day, the devil realised what the building was actually going to be and flew into a rage. (Can’t say I blame him there, either.) He picked up a huge boulder and was about to smash the place to pieces when one daring local told him to leave it alone; they’d build him a wine bar across the street instead. The devil was very happy with this so he dropped the boulder and has been sitting there happily ever since. I don’t know if he ever made it to the wine bar…

As I was half-frozen at this stage, I decided a far quicker way to see the sights would be to go up to the viewing tower at St. Peter’s Church and kill all the birds with one stone. (In a figurative sense. I love wildlife.)

Niederegger
The best marzipan in the world

Thankfully, with all of the other tourists crammed into Niederegger Marzipan Café, I made it to the top in no time. It was COLD.

My new look. I call it "The Trump".
My new look. I call it “The Trump”.

For some reason, being truly frozen for a short time instead of gradually frozen over a longer period of time made sense to me. The views were pretty spectacular as well.

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After a quick glass of wine at a cute little bar, I got on what I hoped was the right bus. It was already dark when I got off at what I hoped was the right stop.

Yep, looks about right.
Yep, looks about right.

I tripped over a twig 2.5 seconds after getting off the bus and thought, “YES!! This the rustic, outdoorsy, solitary existence I was looking for!” Then, thankfully, I found the hotel because it was a little scary out there, all alone in the dark…

Adorable, no?
Adorable, no?

The hotel has been in the Grotkopp (yes, that is their real name) family’s hands for generations, and Mrs Grotkopp greeted me like I was her long-lost grand-daughter. There was hand-holding and chuckling, chatting about the weather and my Trump “do”, and I wondered what I’d done to deserve such royal treatment. Then I remembered. She’s German. They’re nice.

It was quite possibly the quickest check-in I’ve ever experienced. I was given my key card, told where to go, and that was it. My room was cosy and well-equipped, had working wifi, typical German beds and no poo shelf. Perfect.

Still funny :)
Still funny 

After spending a few minutes scrolling through the usual dreck everyone posts on Facebook around New Year’s, I decided I’d earned a nap. In trying to find the switch on the bedside lamp, I accidentally touched the base of it. Like magic, it came on.

Me: Ooh.

So I touched it again. It got brighter.

Me: Ooooh.

So I touched it again. It got brighter still.

Me: OoohOooh…

Clearly I should not be left on my own for extended periods of time.
Clearly I should not be left on my own for extended periods of time.

After a very satisfying snooze, it was time to go hunting and foraging for food. But luckily, this is Germany and therefore civilised, so there was an inviting little Italian place down the road.

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As usual, I was the last to leave, so the Italian owner came over for a chat at the end of the night. He didn’t speak a word of English but we still managed to have a fine old chinwag about the breakdown of society and how nobody had the staying power to really make a relationship work these days. Incidentally, he was on wife number three, a Ukrainian, with three kids in total, one from each wife. People never cease to amuse me…

And what better way to start the New Year than on a cliff-hanger. Stay tuned for part two – there will be trees, oh yes, there will be trees. BUT spoiler alert: I lived.

Happy New Year everyone!