Tag Archives: Cleaning

A few more steps

I recently became a little bit more German.

Me: Right, that’s it. We’re clearing out the living room. I don’t mind you having all the wires, cables, batteries, old phones, place mats, last year’s birthday cards, post from 2012… I just don’t want to have to look at it every evening.

Manfredas: You’re right. 

Me: I know. I’ve bought three “decorative” storage boxes. White is for documents, black is for any technical stuff, grey is for anything in between. 

Manfredas: You scare me. 

Me: I know. LET’S DO THIS! 

Ta dah!

And that’s not even the half of it. Everyone knows that the Germans love insurance – Manfredas isn’t even sure how many different types of policies he has. While I’m not quite in that league, I have taken out two more forms of insurance – bicycle and (say it with me) Haftpflichtversicherung.

You see, I bought a new bike not so long ago and, looking at it in comparison to the shitheaps most people in Berlin ride around on, I felt that maybe my beautiful Tecnobike needed a little extra protection.

I heart my Tecnobike.

Given that there were more than 34,000 reported bicycle thefts in Berlin last year, you’d think more people would have insurance. Not so. Having asked Manfredas, friends and students for tips, in the end, I had to resort to Mr. Google – and even that wasn’t easy. I eventually found the brilliantly-named Bike Ass and, for the bargain price of just €46.41 per year, Tecnobike can sleep easy at night, even if she is chained up in the basement.

Manfredas: You should also get Haftpflichtversicherung.

Me: Sounds like some kind of disease. 

Manfredas: (Sigh) No, it’s personal liability insurance. If you do damage to someone or something, it covers you. 

Me: Nah, I don’t really think I need it. 

Manfredas: Well, nobody takes out home insurance believing there’s going to be a fire, do they?

Me: No, I guess not. How much is it? 

I went with AXA and now, for a yearly pittance, I can do €50,000,000 euro’s worth of damage. Woop!

A couple of months later, I’m very happy that I have both forms of insurance. While I haven’t damaged anyone or anything (yet), the potential for this happening in Berlin seems rather high.

Example: “OK, Tecnobike, I’m going to have to leave you here for a couple of hours while I go work. But look, you’ve got loads of room and plenty of bikey company. You’ll be just fine. I’ll miss you…” 

Spacious.

You come back a while later and this has happened.

Tecnobike! Where are you!?

You might be thinking “What kind of idiot would park their car there?” or, more pressingly, “What IS that??” but if I damage either the car or THE THING trying to get out of there, it’s on me. I was tempted to do a couple of grands’ worth of damage just to prove a point, but I’m trying to be a responsible cyclist…

Interestingly, in Berlin, this is probably the most dangerous thing you can be. If you follow the rules, act like a normal human being, and show some consideration for other people using the roads and cycle lanes, chances are you’ll be the one taken out. Naturally, me being me, I’ve learned this the hard way.

So, there I was, pootling my way home on a beautiful sunny afternoon. I was heading for Karl-Marx-Allee, in the cycle lane between the lane of cars turning right and the lane going straight ahead, like me. I had started slowing down as there was a red light up ahead.

BAM. Out of nowhere, another cyclist tried to overtake me at speed (why I don’t know, as the light was red anyway), clipped Tecnobike and somehow my left leg and arm ended up crushed between the two bikes and a taxi. Miraculously, I managed to stay upright, which is good; I’ve found that roaring “ARSCHLOCH!” at someone from the ground isn’t nearly as effective.

Me: ARSCHLOCH!

Arsch mit Ohren: Me?!

Me: Yes, you, you @^$#^%^%#%$#$@#%%$^^&^&^%. You could have killed me!

Arsch mit Ohren: Uh, sorry.

We somehow managed to disentangle the two bikes and I limped to the pavement, the Arsch following me. The taxi driver had since driven off, satisfied that we hadn’t damaged his car. Eye roll.

Arsch mit Ohren: Oh, you’re bleeding. Would you like a tissue? 

Me: I’ve got my own damn tissues.

Arsch mit Ohren: You’re shaking. I’m sorry, I don’t have any water. 

Me: I’ve got my OWN DAMN WATER!

Arsch mit Ohren: Would you like to go for a coffee or something? You’re probably in shock.

Me: Are you insane?

Arsch mit Ohren: Or I could accompany you home? Make sure you’re OK? 

Me: I was just fine ’til you ploughed into me. I think I’ll be safer by myself, thank you very much. 

I finally got rid of him and, after calming down a little, inspecting Tecnobike (unharmed, thankfully), made it the rest of the way home unscathed. I was scathed enough as it was.

I watched with interest over the next few days as various parts of my body swelled up and turned different colours, my main regret being that I hadn’t turned back and run that asshole over in return. I am insured, after all…

Last weekend, there was a demonstration for safer conditions for cyclists in Berlin. While there is definitely room for improvement, from what I’ve seen, these people’s time would have been better spent learning some manners and oh, maybe how to ride a bicycle.

Berlin Demonstration von Fahradfahrern
Cycling for safety – while on your mobile. Genius. (Source: Deutsche Welle)

In the few months I’ve been with Tecnobike, I’ve seen people cycling while looking at their mobile phones, a guy cycling while reading a book, cyclists with a beer in one hand and a fag in the other, hands-free cycling, one idiot with his feet up on the handlebars, people sailing through red lights, not indicating which way they’re turning… and, of course, no lights.

Since the police and Ordnungsamt are somehow blind to all of this, Manfredas and I have started our own little “Balkonordnungsamt”. This involves yelling “Licht an du Vogel!” at the morons down below. However, as we’re on the sixth floor, it’s more likely that only our neighbours above and below can hear us and someone will call the Ordnungsamt on us.

I wonder if there’s insurance against that…

 

 

 

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Living on my own

Me: Of course, my dream is to live by myself eventually.

Kayla: Oh, my Aussie friend is looking for someone to take over her flat for a couple of months. Maybe you two should meet? 

Me: Hell yeah. 

And so, through my South African friend that I used to work with in Dublin who now also lives in Berlin, I got to meet Ailsa, the Aussie artist who’s going on an artists residency in the States for a couple of months. She’d had some problems with Airbnb people before, so she wanted to leave her flat in safe hands. (Ahem.) Enter me. Naturally, she loved me at first sight and we both agreed that I should have her apartment.

Of course, Hildeberta and Hildegard were heart-broken when I told them I’d be moving out. Who would leave long dark hairs all over the apartment when I was gone? But, on the plus side, they now get to clean every second week instead of every third week so I guess there’s that. Naturally, I will miss them a lot, but we’ll still see each other and I’ll have them over to my flat for a (hopefully not poisonous) dinner soon.

I moved into my new pad in Neukölln on Tuesday with the help of Fritz, who I hoped would be more alert behind the wheel than he is on trains. He came to my place at 10am (on the dot) and by 10.40, we had everything moved into my new flat. German-Irish efficiency. (Yes, it is a real thing…)

I fully intend to.
I fully intend to.

Words can’t describe how happy I am to be finally living on my own in Berlin – even if it is just for a short time. Of course, it’s more expensive than my old place, but I’ve decided to start living my life the way I want it to be (rather than how it actually is) and hope that everything else falls into place. Madness? Perhaps, but it feels wunderbar. And I get to play “If I were an egg, where would I be?” in a whole new LIDL.

I’ve already charmed the Lederhosen off the auld lads who are permanently installed outside the bar next door, and I’m planning on joining them several times a week – to practise my German. I’ve also met the little old Turkish lady who’s like the gatekeeper to the building and a good woman to have on side. She also doesn’t speak a word of English so our first meeting was quite entertaining.

Zeynep: Are you from Australia too?

Me: No, I’m from Ireland. 

Zeynep: (brief pause) JOHNNY LOGAN!!!

Me: Erm, yeah… 

(Ah, the good old days, when Ireland got more than “nul points” in the Eurovision.)

My first act upon moving in was to accidentally melt cheese all over the kitchen floor thanks to my new sandwich toaster. I’d gone to get dressed and put on my make-up after turning it on, and came back to find molten hot cheese covering the nice wooden floor and some wiring. I’d forgotten how fast those things toast, clearly.

Don't worry, Ailsa, it came off easily...
Don’t worry, Ailsa, it came off easily…

I’ve also had to permanently close the door to the storage room, as I kept walking in there thinking it was the kitchen or the bathroom. But, thankfully, I’m less confused now, and becoming more successful at living. Last night, I had Nigel over for dinner and managed not to kill either of us. I cooked a sausage casserole that I was hoping would feed me for the week, but Nige polished off three-quarters of it in one sitting. Still, at least he didn’t wildpinkel on the balcony.

View from my awesome balcony
View from my awesome balcony

This morning, feeling rather continental, I decided to have my Schokobrötchen and tea on said balcony while sunning myself in my underwear. This afforded me the treat of seeing my Turkish neighbour doing his morning stretching routine on his balcony. Or at least he was doing it until he spotted the half-naked Irish woman eyeing him.

What I'll be doing every morning from now until July.
What I’ll be doing every morning from now until July.

On the whole, after only two days, I’m enjoying living here so much that I think I might have the locks changed while Ailsa is in the States and not open the door when she comes back. Although, I’m not sure how German law enforcement would feel about that.

OK, I know exactly how they'd feel.
OK, I know exactly how they’d feel.

So, for anyone who hasn’t been keeping track of my journey in Berlin, this is how it looks so far…

North, south, east, west...
North, south, east, west…

Where to next? Who knows, but I should probably start looking tomorrow…

Why I’ll never be a good German Hausfrau

“Whose turn is it to clean the apartment?”

This is not a real question. If Hildegard or Hildeberta have got to the stage where this question has to be asked, then it’s definitely my turn to clean. Sigh. 

This is where ze Germans and I have very different opinions. I hate housework with the fire of a thousand suns; it bores the pants off me.

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Pants – bored off me. (A German would have ironed both the pants and the sheet before taking that photo.)

Before I moved to Germany, I watched a BBC documentary called “Make me a German”. The show claims that the average German woman does four hours and eleven minutes of housework A DAY. When I’d picked myself up off the (probably not hoovered) floor, my skeptical side kicked in. Surely nobody could spend four hours and eleven minutes a day doing housework. But, now that I live with two German women, I’m starting to realise that it might actually be true. They love it.

If you want to see a German woman really excited, go out drinking, cover your white dress in red wine, and then come back home and look helpless. They’ll spring into action with the same gusto I normally reserve for cake.

Mmm, cake...
Mmm, cake…

And by god, they’ll get those stains out, even if takes four hours and eleven minutes… After all of this excitement, they’ll probably unwind by ironing everything they own or cleaning their shoes. They find this relaxing.

Hildegard: Feel free to borrow the iron any time you like. 

Me: I haven’t ironed anything in around 20 years. I’m a fan of the “take it out of the washing machine quickly and hang it up” method. Then if there are still wrinkles, you just wear the item of clothing until they fall out. The “body heat” approach. 

Hildegard: (Thud)

There are a few other household-related things I’ve done that have resulted in sharp intakes of breath and widened eyes.

Hildeberta: What are you doing? 

Me: Pouring my soup into a bowl.

Hildeberta: Huh, I’ve never seen anyone pour soup directly from a saucepan before.

Me: Really? What do you do? 

Hildeberta: Use a ladle. (She didn’t say “like a normal person” but I guess she was thinking it.)

Me: Huh.

Unnecessary washing-up
Unnecessary washing-up

On another occasion:

Hildeberta: What are you doing?

Me: Filling the kettle.

Hildeberta: Through the spout?

Me: Yeah, I find that opening and closing the lid adds valuable seconds to the process and I’m all about efficiency in the home.

Hildeberta: Huh. 

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I’m trying to be lazy or a bad flatmate; I just genuinely don’t see stuff. To me, the flat simply never really looks like it’s in need of cleaning. It’s the cleanest place I’ve ever lived. My mother always said that there could be an elephant sitting in the middle of the living room, and I wouldn’t notice it. I think she’s right. Incidentally, Hildeberta just popped her head into my room.

Hildeberta: Hey, where’s the other chair? 

Me: What chair?

Hildeberta: Didn’t you have two?

Me: Oh, I think you’re right. Hmm, I wonder where the other one went…

Then I remembered that my landlady had come around several months ago to pick up some of her stuff. She must have taken it. Yes, you read that correctly – several months, and I still hadn’t noticed that the chair was gone. I probably never would have.

Now there’s talk of putting together a housework rota. Clearly, this is the last thing on earth I want. Anyway, I probably won’t notice the rota any more than I notice the dirt.

The cupboard of boredom and doom.
The cupboard of boredom and doom.

On a positive note, however, I have a new fan. Hildeberta’s dad is the latest German to enjoy reading the blog. This is good news for me. Now, not only does Hildeberta have to listen to all of my stupid adventures first-hand, she also has to read about them, and then hear all about them again from her dad. He likes to recount my blog posts to her whenever he calls – charming man. I’m hoping that this means that she just won’t have time to put together a rota.

Thank you, Herr Hildeberta. You might just have saved my Speck…

 

You can find the highly entertaining BBC documentary here: 

 

 

Germanification

I feel like my inner German is growing stronger by the day. I’ve even started glaring at people who jaywalk – not because I disapprove, but because it seems like rather a German thing to do.

The process is being accelerated by the fact that I live with two German girls, and I believe that their German influence over me is stronger than my Irish influence over them. Although, in the beginning, I thought that the Irish might win out.

Hildeberta: Last night I had a night that you would be proud of. 

Me: I assume that something terribly sophisticated happened. 

Hildeberta: HA! NO! (A classic example of that German delusion-crushing directness you’ve probably heard about.) No, no, I ended up drinking with a bunch of randoms in some gay bar, then somehow found myself in an African bar, then finished the night sitting in the road eating pizza with a homeless guy. 

Me: Hmm. Yeah, that does sound more like something I would do…

However, despite this little Irish blip, it is, most definitely, a German apartment. This is mainly evidenced in the fact that it is spotless – apart from my room, obviously.

The cleanest bathroom in the world
The cleanest bathroom in the world

The reason for this is that Germans never stop cleaning. Even when something is clean, they’ll clean over the clean – just for good measure. When it comes to O’Grady vs Germ, I adopt a very ‘live and let live’ attitude – it’s worked for me so far. When it comes to German vs Germ… well, let’s just say you feel sorry for any germ that has the audacity to lurk on German soil.

The most used hoover in the world
The most used hoover in the world – and Elvis

I think that all of this might, one day, have the effect of turning me into a good decent semi-decent Hausfrau. The other day, I actually hoovered – spontaneously. However, I feel that my progress may not be speedy enough for ze Germans.

Last week, I was über proud of myself when I finished a carton of milk and remembered to put it into the “cardboard” bin. I swaggered off somewhere and came back to find Hildegard standing in the kitchen holding the offending item. I’d messed up in two ways –

1. I hadn’t folded the milk carton to the size of a 10 cent coin.

2. I’d put it into the “cardboard” bin, when it was lined with plastic and probably still contained some drops of milk. (Actually, I knew it did.)

Hildegard: I know! It’s such a German thing! 

Me: Yeah… haha. 

Although she was laughing, there was German steel in there at the same time. I then got my first lesson in Mülltrennung (rubbish separation), the one thing every foreigner dreads when they move to Germany.

20141104_122954[1]

20141103_150751[1]

Guess which one is mine…

Still, I console myself with the fact that while my German Hausfrau-ness is a work in progress, my German beer-drinking abilities are second to none. Well, apart from the Germans – natürlich.

A Bjorn Loser

On Wednesday evening, just as I was starting to relax and enjoy the peace, Bjorn came back. Yes, his 8 – 9 day trip, had turned into a one day trip. This one day did finally give me a chance to tackle the fridge of dysentery, disease and death, though.

I opened the door to a slightly battered-looking Bjorn, complete with broken nose and black eyes. Seemingly, he’d been jumped by some Turks in Sweden. This may or may not be fictitious.

Me: Where’s your key?

Bjorn: I gave it to my wife to mind and she forgot to give it back. 

Yes, Bjorn is married – to an insane Russian, who also may or may not be fictitious. Bjorn has spent the last few weeks living in fear of said wife, who is an evil genius when it comes to technology. She has been hacking his mobile and screwing with his life, so he keeps on switching off the wifi to deny her access. So it makes perfect sense that they would go to Sweden together…

Me: Why would you do that?

Bjorn: Ramble, ramble, nonsense, bullshit…

Me: Sigh. 

On Thursday morning, I packed my laptop, as Thursday is the day of loneliness when it comes to lessons. I figured if the students didn’t show up again, I could at least get some other work done. This week, two out of four groups showed up, which I guess is progress. One of the groups didn’t have a single German in it, just two Spaniards, an El Salvadoran, and a Pole. Welcome to Berlin.

When I got home in the evening, I was rather surprised to find the front door open. He didn’t, he couldn’t have… He did.

2014-10-10 11.34.26

When Bjorn showed up around half an hour later, I was spitting mad, but decided to start off in a calm, Germanic way.

Me: Are you aware that you left the front door open?

Bjorn: Well, I didn’t know what time you’d be back, and I had to go out. 

(Warning: The conversation goes a bit ‘Tarantino’ at this point.)

Me: Are you a complete and utter fucking moron?

Bjorn: No, it’s fine. I’ve done it before…

Me: You what?? Are you actually fucking mentally ill? Anything could have happened. All of my stuff is here. Where is your fucking key?

Bjorn: My wife isn’t answering her phone. 

Me: Well, fucking call her again, and keep calling her. What is your cunning plan for tomorrow? Go out all day again and leave the fucking door open? Maybe you could put the fucking frying pan on the ring while you’re at it, to heat up the place for when you get back. You total fucking gobshite. 

I would like to say at this point that I am a rather articulate person in real life. However, when faced with this unprecedented level of stupidity, all decorum went out the window. It’s perfectly clear that Bjorn has zero respect for his own stuff, but it would be nice to know that I can actually go out and expect my things to be here when I get back.

Yesterday afternoon, craving some normal conversation, I met up with my new best friend, Dietmar. We met at the restaurant where we first got talking. Over a couple of glasses of Chardonnay, we caught up, and I filled him in on my current living situation. When I showed him the photos of the fridge, he almost passed out. He offered to help me find somewhere new; I gratefully accepted.

Dietmar: I’d like to take you to a speakeasy in a ruin. Would you like that?

Me: Sounds great! 

And then this happened...
And then this happened…

We hopped on his scooter and zipped off into the night, me probably cutting off his circulation in the process. The speakeasy was just opening when we got there and was indeed in a ruin. Only in Berlin!

2014-10-11 19.06.58
The host with the most

Given the choice between spending the night with a mad Swede or a sexy older German man, the decision was pretty easy. It also meant that Bjorn would be locked out for the night, so the flat had a much better chance of survival.

I ignored all calls and texts, had a nice leisurely breakfast with Dietmar today, and eventually made my way home for around 1 o’clock.

Bjorn: You didn’t tell me you wouldn’t be coming home. 

Me: I did. You just didn’t listen. You never fucking listen. 

Bjorn: I had to check in to a hotel. I checked out at 7am and have been waiting for you ever since.

Me: Why would you do that? You really are a total fucking idiot, you know that? 

Bjorn: Ramble, ramble, nonsense, bullshit…

Me: Look. I’m sick of fucking listening to this. Sort out your fucking wife, get your fucking key and sort your fucking life out. You asshole. You’re 36 years old and you live like a fucking moron. 

Bjorn: Wow, I had no idea you were so crazy. 

Me: ME? I’M CRAZY? YOU ARE A COMPLETE AND UTTER NUTTER. I can’t take this any more. I’m moving out. Give me back my fucking deposit and I’ll be gone by the end of the week. 

Bjorn: Oh, I bought cookies. You can have one if you like. 

Me: Fucking psycho. 

Around half an hour after this conversation, the phone rang. It was Dietmar to say that he’d found me a room. I think I love that man. God bless German efficiency.

 

 

Hermann makes a woman of me

I’ve had my first German sexual encounter. I think. As with most things, it wasn’t what I was expecting and I’m not even sure it was a sexual encounter. At least, I know it wasn’t for me anyway…

So I’m sitting in my room, working away on my laptop and dressed in my (very nice, mostly cream) interview dress. Hermann knocks at the door. When I open it, he’s standing there looking a bit dishevelled and out of breath. He draws a line with his finger from his throat down to his crotch, which I take to mean that he’s had some sort of major operation. (Now I think he may have been pointing at something else entirely.)

He asks me to help him in the kitchen, so I dutifully trot along after him. When we get there, I see that he’s emptied the fridge and now wants me to clean it. Sigh. He pulls out an apron and puts it on me, fastening it with a chain… Then I get my instructions on how to clean a fridge, German-style.

So, I’m bent over with my head in the fridge; Hermann has placed himself on a seat right behind me. Suddenly, I hear cries of:

JA, JA, JAWOHL! OH, WUNDERBAR, WUNDERBAR. JA JA!

coming from the general direction of my ass.

Hermie: Wait, what is this?

Me: Umm, it looks like a bit of card stuck to the back of the fridge.

Hermie: NEIN.

Me: (scrubbing at it ineffectually) Maybe we can put some hot water on it and let it soak for a while…

Hermie: NEIN!

So he grabs a knife, bends over my back and starts attacking the offending bit of card like a man possessed. For someone who didn’t have the strength to wipe down the rest of the fridge, he’s making up for it now, grunting and working up a sweat as he hacks at the card, his considerable girth finding repose on my nice-interview-dress-clad behind.

JA JA! DAS IST WUNDERBAR! JAWOHL! JAWOHL!

Close encounters of the fridge kind
Close encounters of the fridge kind

Smelling of industrial strength cleaner and old man sweat, I retired to my room, only to be disturbed again a few minutes later. Hermann needed my help printing something. When I managed to do it, he kissed me on my cheek. I guess this is the German version of snuggling.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned, I was in my nice interview dress because, yes, you guessed it, I had interviews. The first was with a German man and I was in and out in 15 minutes flat. The second was with an English woman and I was there for almost two hours. We bonded over Hermann and his dish towels in the first five minutes (she’d had a similar experience when she first arrived) and got on like a house on fire after that.

Me: So, when do you think you’ll let me know?

Sally: Oh no, we definitely have work for you! 

And she gave me a group there and then. Later that day, I got an email from the other school, saying that they also have a group for me. It’s not much, but it’s a start – and a big relief to know that I am hirable in Deutschland. So I went and celebrated with a cup of tea in a Mercedes-Benz showroom – as you do.

All in all, it’s been quite the week. JAWOHL!